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Golden Globes 2012 Recap: What I Loved and Loathed

By cdahlen · January 16, 2012

I was so excited to kick off awards season with the Golden Globes last night, and the show didn't disappoint!  The Red Carpet was a sea of fabulous fashion, the show presenters were entertaining and fun, and the award winners shared charming acceptance speeches.  Unfortunately, there were a few less-than-stellar aspects of the evening as well...check out what I loved and loathed below!


Fashion choices made by Sofía Vergara, Charlize Theron, and Reese Witherspoon. These A-List ladies are always gorgeous, but they looked especially stunning last night!

Sofía Vergara Golden Globes

Sofía Vergara in a gorgeous, deep turquoise, mermaid-style dress by Vera Wang


Charlize Theron Golden Globes

Charlize Theron in a stunning, champagne/pink-hued gown by Dior (+ a fantastic retro headband!)


Reese Witherspoon Golden Globes

Reese Witherspoon in a figure-hugging, red Zac Posen gown (+ perfect, tousled locks!)



Fashion selections made by Lea Michele, Nicole Kidman, and Dianna Agron.  I love all of these ladies, but I just couldn't get onboard with their Red Carpet attire.

Lea Michele Marchesa

Lea Michele in a grey Marchesa number; the whole look (updo, heavy makeup, long-sleeved gown) aged Ms. Michele, I would have liked to see something more modern and fresh on the Glee starlet


Nicole Kidman Versace

Nicole Kidman in Versace; the dress was too structured and stiff, I would have liked to see the actress in something more free-flowing


Dianna Agron Giles

Dianna Agron in a firey red Giles gown; something about the fit of the gown didn't do it for me - too high of a neckline, and was not a striking silhouette



Heartfelt, funny acceptance speeches by Christopher Plummer, Michelle Williams, Morgan Freeman, and George Clooney. I loved their genuine emotion and humor.


Christopher Plummer Golden Globes

Legendary actor Christopher Plummer accepted the first award of the night, and said a special thank-you to his wife of 43 years - warmed my heart!


Michelle Williams Golden Globes

Michelle Williams won for her role as Marilyn Monroe in the film My Week with Marilyn, and thanked her daughter Matilda.  So sweet!  (And I LOVED her retro headband - it was the accessory of the evening!)


Morgan Freeman Golden Globes

Morgan Freeman was presented with the Cecil B. DeMille award.  During his acceptance, Freeman proclaimed that this award would also remain known to him as the Sidney Poitier award, as the legendary actor presented Freeman with the honor.  What a powerful moment!


George Clooney Golden Globes

When George Clooney accepted the Best Dramatic Actor award for his role in The Descendants, he first recognized his buddy Brad Pitt for all of his philanthropic work, and then went on to joke about fellow nominee Michael Fassbender's, um, golf club.  Heartfelt AND hilarious - well done, George!



Tame...dare I say BORING hosting job by Ricky Gervais.

Ricky Gervais Golden Globes 2012

Maybe it was all of the hype. Maybe he used all of his best material last year. Maybe the Hollywood Foreign Press/NBC paid him a ridiculous amount of money to stay quiet. Whatever the reason, Ricky Gervais' hosting performance this year was less than stellar.  Save for a few good one-liners (Jodie Foster's beaver, Martha Stewart's turkey baster), Gervais just didn't have the edginess that has defined him as a host in years' past.  The funniest moments were more off-the-cuff, when stars like Madonna and Johnny Depp fired back at Gervais. I vote for George Clooney to host next year!



Leonardo DiCaprio Golden Globes 2012

I thought I would end on a positive note and recognize the perfection that is Leonardo DiCaprio.  He never disappoints!  Thank you for making my heart go on after all these years...


Overall, the Globes were entertaining, glamorous, and fun.  I can't wait to see what happens during the rest of awards season: Will The Artist maintain its momentum? Will George Clooney become a two-time Oscar winner? Will Sofía Vergara EVER look bad at an awards show?  We'll have to wait and see...

Next up in my 2012 awards show coverage: The Screen Actors Guild Awards, airing January 29th on TNT & TBS. Can't wait to watch!

Top 10 Golden Globes Fashion Moments

By cdahlen · January 12, 2012

The 2012 Golden Globes are quickly approaching (the telecast airs January 15 at 8 PM on NBC), and I can barely contain my excitement! This year is bound to be especially entertaining, as controversial host Ricky Gervais returns for the third year in a row, and the Lead Actor in a Drama category features THE hottest men in Hollywood...including my future hubby Ryan Gosling. Loves it!

Though there is much to look forward to during the ceremony, I am most excited for the Red Carpet fashion!  In anticipation of this year's Globes, I've decided to take a look back at my Top 10 Golden Globes Red Carpet looks over the past decade.  Enjoy!


Vanessa Hudgens Alberta Ferreti

10. Vanessa Hudgens, 2009 (Alberta Ferretti)

Vanessa Hudgens’ 2009 Alberta Ferretti ensemble elevated the High School Musical star from Tween Queen to Red Carpet Goddess! Though nude and champagne-colored dresses have been a staple at awards shows over the past few years, Hudgens stood out from the Hollywood pack because her gown flattered her petite frame, and her hair, makeup, and accessories provided the perfect accents. Her lengthy strand of beads gave the look a retro, Roaring 20s flair, while her tousled locks and glowing makeup kept Hudgens’ look fresh and modern. Great work!


Anne Hathaway Armani

9. Anne Hathaway, 2011 (Armani)

Anne Hathaway’s 2011 Armani gown oozed Hollywood glamour! The ensemble represented the perfect combination of classic chic and sexy sophistication. Though Hathaway’s look fell into the champagne-colored trend as well, the actress stood out because of the unique cut of her dress (long sleeves, high neck), well-styled, loose hair and effortless makeup. This Red Carpet moment is not only one of my favorite Golden Globes looks, but it stands out as one of the best from the overall 2011 awards season. Props to Anne (and her über-stylist Rachel Zoe)!


Beyonce Elie Saab

8. Beyoncé, 2007 (Elie Saab)

Before she was a doting Mama to new daughter Blue Ivy, Beyoncé turned heads 2007 when she rocked a shimmering, gold ensemble by Elie Saab. The actress was nominated for the musical Dreamgirls, and even though she didn’t win that night, she earned the acclaim of fashion-lovers everywhere with her hot look! The performer's incredible dress was complimented by perfect, flat-ironed, flowing hair, dramatic, Cleopatra-like makeup, and of course, her indelible, infectious smile. This is by far one of the most memorable Golden Globe looks of the past decade.


Jennifer Aniston vintage Valentino

7. Jennifer Aniston, 2004 (vintage Valentino)

This vintage Valentino gown from 2004 is quintessential Jennifer Aniston: simple, sexy, sophisticated. Though the dress is a classic A-line silhouette, the details of Aniston’s look define her as a Red Carpet stand-out: the rhinestone buckle that breaks up the plunging neckline, the loose curls that offset the formal style of her full-length gown, and the breezy makeup that allows Jen’s natural beauty to shine through. The best Red Carpet moments happen when celebs feel comfortable in their own skin – and Aniston consistently stays true to her California-cool vibe. I can’t wait to see what she wears next!


Olivia Wilde Marchesa

Olivia Wilde Gold Shoes

6. Olivia Wilde, 2011 (Marchesa + Christian Louboutin Shoes)

Last year, House actress Olivia Wilde wore one of the coolest ensembles in Golden Globe history. Her sparkly, princess-style Marchesa dress dominated the carpet (literally…her skirt was huge!). I was already loving her look when, low and behold, she unveiled two statement-making Red Carpet accessories: her spiky, gold Christian Louboutin shoes. It was great to see Wilde take a fashion risk, and have fun with her look. It certainly paid off: the actress was featured on nearly every subsequent Best Dressed list for the 2011 awards season. We’ll see if anyone can top Wilde’s legendary look during this year’s Globes!


Jennifer Lopez Michael Kors

5. Jennifer Lopez, 2004 (Michael Kors)

By far, one of my favorite looks from Globes' past was Jennifer Lopez’s 2004 Michael Kors dress. This Red Carpet appearance was one of the actress’ first since her dramatic breakup with Ben Affleck, but one wouldn’t know it from her effervescent smile and all-around glow. Her look was flawless from head-to-toe: the dress fit like a glove, the tangerine hue complimented her sun-kissed complexion, her hair was sleek and sophisticated, and her jewelry added the perfect amount of sparkle. J. Lo is known for making daring Red Carpet choices, and this dress was no exception.


Reese Witherspoon Nina Ricci

4. Reese Witherspoon, 2007 (Nina Ricci + Brian Atwood Shoes)

Reese Witherspoon (circa 2007) also had a post-breakup, Red Carpet “wow” moment. The actress, who had recently filed for divorce from her husband, Ryan Phillipe, stepped out in a stunning, canary yellow Nina Ricci cocktail dress, perfectly complemented by red Brian Atwood sandals, and a set of chic side-swept bangs. Witherspoon took a risk by wearing a cocktail style among the droves of stars in full-length evening gowns, but she pulled it off with flying colors. Never before had she looked more confident or sophisticated. Definitely one of the most memorable Red Carpet moments at the Golden Globes!


Eva Mendes Dior

3. Eva Mendes, 2009 (Dior)

Rachel Zoe strikes again! Her client Eva Mendes makes my list for her 2009 Dior stunner. Though I’m not a huge fan of the “structured dresses with appendages” trend, this ensemble won me over, mostly because of how it was styled, and how it fit Mendes. The white gown looked stunning against the actress’ olive skin, and hugged her curves in all the right places. Her 60s-style updo and makeup, along with the statement-making turquoise necklace by Van Cleef and Arpels polished off her look, and transformed the actress into a bombshell screen star, à la Raquel Welch or Sophia Loren. This is one Red Carpet moment I won’t soon forget!


Eva Longoria Zac Posen

2. Eva Longoria, 2011 (Zac Posen)

Eva Longoria stunned last year in her super-chic Zac Posen number. The actress stole the show in her black, mermaid-style gown. The dress stood out because of its dramatic train, capped sleeves, open back, and flattering satin sash. Not many actresses could pull off such a statement silhouette, but Longoria wore the look effortlessly – and her bouffant-style updo and smoky eyes added just the right amount of glam. Well done!


Eva Longoria Reem Acra

1. Eva Longoria, 2009 (Reem Acra)

Drumroll please…Ms. Eva Longoria dominates the top of my list! The Desperate Housewives actress is one of my favorite Golden Globes fashion icons, and what better way to celebrate her fantastic track record then by awarding her the top spot? It was difficult to choose between her 2011 Zac Posen gown and this red Reem Acra stunner, but I think Longoria’s 2009 dress can’t be beat! The mermaid-style, strapless gown fit the petite actress like a glove, and defined glam at the Globes that year. I love that Longoria kept her hair, makeup, and accessories low-key so that the dramatic red dress could speak for itself. Why has she continued to achieve fashion success? Simply, the actress knows knows what works on her body, and thus she continues to be a force on the Red Carpet. I hope Longoria makes an appearance this year – can’t wait to see how the actress tops this look!


I'm excited to see what the Golden Globes Red Carpet has in store this year.  With newcomers like Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Jessica Chastain (The Help), and Zooey Deschanel (The New Girl), alongside Golden Globes regulars like Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce), Charlize Theron (Young Adult), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), there are bound to be some exciting Red Carpet standouts this year.  Follow me on Twitter (@cinemacarly) for live updates and my fashion picks during the pre-show and the awards telecast.  Can't wait to watch!

'The Tree of Life' Review: Breathing New 'Life' into Age-Old Questions

By cdahlen · September 4, 2011

Brad Pitt Tree of Life

Brad Pitt in The Tree of LIfe

If the purpose of film - of art, for that matter - is to explore, analyze, reflect upon, and/or celebrate life, then Terrence Malick accomplishes this goal tenfold in his latest work, The Tree of Life. He tackles Heaven, Earth, and the Cosmos, and presents these overwhelming themes through staggeringly beautiful imagery.  No wonder it took him decades to make this film!

The core story follows Jack, a man who grows up in 1950s suburban Texas, and navigates a complex relationship with his strict, unforgiving father, Mr. O'Brien (Brad Pitt).  The film focuses mostly on Jack as a child (played by newcomer Hunter McCracken), but also features the protagonist as an adult (Sean Penn), as he struggles to reconcile with the difficulties from his early years.  Jack's mother (Jessica Chastain), in contrast to her severe husband, takes a softer approach with Jack and his two younger brothers, and is a source of calm for the skittish boys.

The film opens with a tragic event in the O'Brien family that serves as the catalyst for the thematic ideas of the film.  These theses are presented via voice-over by the main characters.  Mrs. O'Brien asks for answers about why the tragedy occurred.  Jack shares his deepest sentiments about his inner-turmoil.  Mr. O'Brien states his wishes for his sons.

Director Terrence Malick stays within his established filmmaking style by intercutting gorgeous nature imagery with more traditional narrative scenes that move the story forward.  The natural world gets equal, if not more screentime than Pitt or Penn.  In fact, one section of the film detours completely from the family narrative, and echoes 2001: A Space Odessey, with a lengthly series of imagery featuring planets, stars, ancient Earth landscapes, primitive life, and even dinosaurs.  Though there are no bone-tossing apes in Tree, this film emulates its sci-fi predecessor by setting the imagery to a classical/instrumental music soundscape, most prominently featured, Zbigniew Preisner's stunning piece Lacrimosa 2, performed by Hanan Townshend.

Tree of Life Movie

A stunning deep space image from the film

The film's varied images are set against a meditative voice-over narration by various O'Brien family members.  The speeches are poetic and complex, and often invoke Biblical references - specifically, from The Book of Job, which questions the nature and purpose of human suffering.

Though Malick's positioning of a small family story against the grand backdrops of prehistoric Earth and the heavens might seem extreme, the juxtaposition makes sense within the context of the film's existentialist themes.  Life examines humanity on a variety of levels: intimately (the family), externally (outer space/primordial Earth), and spiritually (Biblical references).  We see a family in domestic turmoil, we see life evolving around them, we hear characters grasping for answers.  Though we humans have little understanding of our universe and of natural and spiritual entities that shape our existence, we do have an intimate knowledge of mid-century America, childhood, and family dynamics.  By intercutting these familiar human scenes with intangible questions and distant images, Malick connects the core of our humanity (family, relationships), with the greater, mysterious forces that dictate our fate.  Thus, he makes the themes more accessible and universal for the audience.

The Tree of Life is Malick's ultimate thesis.  It stays true stylistically to the filmmaker's previous work, but confronts the biggest questions, and presents the grandest images of all of his films.  It's Malick at his most extreme, but it's not perfect.  Stars, planets and an operatic score: fantastic.  Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain lit by sunbeams shining through tree branches: gorgeous.  CGI dinosaurs: too much. Biblical references and existential questions incessantly cited via voice-over: slightly self-indulgent (we get it, Malick!).  Though the film occasionally misses the mark, it's a fascinating, beautiful artistic accomplishment, and is well-worth seeing.

'HappyThankYouMorePlease': An Endearing, Indie Rom-Com

By cdahlen · March 19, 2011

Malin Akerman Josh Radnor

Malin Akerman and Josh Radnor as Annie and Sam

I've never really loved those rom-com films with intertwining storylines that ultimately make a grand statement about love. I'll get reamed for admitting this, but I don't really care for the preeminent film of that genre, Love Actually. I just can't relate to any of those quirky Brits. My friends and I are a bunch of 20-somethings navigating careers and relationships in New York City. We're professionally dissatisfied, emotionally frustrated, and romantically challenged. HappyThankYouMorePlease is a multi-storyline rom-com...that focuses on 20-somethings navigating careers and relationships in New York City! Finally! Writer/director/star Josh Radnor--best known for his role in How I Met Your Mother--nails Gen Y in his directorial debut, and sets a new standard for this popular film genre.

Radnor plays Sam, a struggling fiction writer and perennial bachelor. While riding the subway one morning, he meets a young boy, Rasheen (Michael Algieri), who becomes separated from his foster family on the train. Sam decides to take in Rasheen until he can decide how to return the boy to the foster system. This fateful meeting marks the beginning of a series of major life events for Sam and his friends: Alopecia-stricken Annie (Malin Akerman) tries to find true love, artsy couple Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) face a crossroads in their relationship, and Sam struggles to reconcile his feelings for sexy cocktail waitress and cabaret singer Mississippi (Kate Mara).

Kate Mara Josh Radnor

Kate Mara, Michael Algieri, and Josh Radnor as Mississippi, Rasheen, and Sam

HappyThankYouMorePlease is a refreshing, relevant representation of my demographic. I felt connected to the characters--almost as if they were my own friends.  I know those guys who are, in Annie's words, "29-year-old 12-year-olds." I've seen those relationships that have suddenly gone "out of focus," like Mary Catherine and Charlie's. I know that girl, like Mississippi, who always seeks out the wrong guys. And, like Sam, I've experienced that overwhelming fear of professional failure.

The Rasheen storyline is unlikely, but it serves the larger themes of the film. This young boy is a blank canvas: He rarely speaks, has no family, and doesn't even know his own birth date. However, his lack of roots allows him to look inward, and discover what sets him apart from others. In Rasheen's case, it's his artistic talent.

The adults surrounding him are on similar journeys of self-discovery, but have a much more difficult time recognizing and embracing their own special traits, because they're so rooted in their past mistakes. Rasheen represents a turning point in their lives. He ignites something within each character which allows them to gain some perspective on their situations, and make some changes for the better. Though the characters are only slightly less neurotic by the end, they're much more open to happiness, success, and love.

HappyThankYouMorePlease is an endearing, inspirational story which will surely be relevant to any 20-something city-dweller, and be entertaining for any audience member.

Oscar Recap: What I Loved and Loathed

By cdahlen · March 1, 2011

Anne Hathaway James Franco


I look forward to the Oscars every year, and for the most part, I am usually thrilled with the telecast.  This year was an unfortunate exception.  Though I appreciated the Academy's attempt to draw in younger viewers, the production was lackluster, and the much-anticipated hosting duo, Anne Hathaway and James Franco, were disappointing.  Below is a quick rundown of what I loved and loathed from this year's Oscars.



Fashion choices made by Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Williams, and Reese Witherspoon.  Gorgeous dresses, fabulous hair, and fresh makeup!

Halle Berry Oscars

Halle Berry


Jennifer Lawrence Oscars

Jennifer Lawrence


Michelle WIlliams Oscars

MIchelle Williams


Reese Witherspoon Oscars

Reese Witherspoon



Fashion faux pas committed by Cate Blanchett, Rhea Durham, and Nicole Kidman.  These ladies should have known better!

Cate Blanchett Oscars

Cate Blanchett


Rhea Durham Oscars

Rhea Durham


Nicole Kidman Oscars

Nicole Kidman



The heartfelt speeches from David Seidler (Original Screenplay, The King's Speech) Luke Matheny (Live Action Short Film, God of Love), and Randy Newman (Orignal Score, Toy Story 3).  It was refreshing to see such passion from these winners.

David Seidler Oscar

David Seidler


Luke Matheny Oscar

Luke Matheny


Randy Newman Oscar

Randy Newman



Celine DIon's schmaltzy rendition of "Smile" during the "In Memoriam" package.  Tacky/Sappy/Bad.

Celine Dion Oscars

Celine Dion



Billy Crystal's tribute to Bob Hope.  Those two were the hosts with the mosts!  Bring Crystal back!

Billy Crystal Oscars

Billy Crystal



Anne Hathaway musical number.  The gal can sing, but the song and dance dissing Hugh Jackman were just...awkward.  Not to mention James Franco's drag appearance at the end.  What was that??


Anne Hathaway James Franco Oscars

Anne Hathaway and James Franco



The PS22 Choir's closing performance of "Somewhere over the Rainbow," accompanied by a final appearance by all of the night's winners.

PS22 Choir Oscars




The fact that I had to wait until MIDNIGHT to see the PS22 performance.  Could it have been earlier in the show?

PS22 Choir

PS22 Choir


What are your thoughts about this year's Oscars?



Countdown to Oscar: Top 10 Past Winning Moments

By cdahlen · February 24, 2011

Not surprisingly, I've been an avid Academy Awards viewer since I was a youngster, and I have many fond memories of the telecasts over the past 20 years. As I prepare for this year's big show (Sunday, February 27 on ABC), I've spent some time looking back on my favorite winning moments from the past two decades.  Below are my top 10 winning moments.  Do you agree?


10. Kathryn Bigelow's win for Best Director for The Hurt Locker (2010 telecast)

Kathryn Bigelow Barbra Streisand

Watch Kathryn's winning moment here

Bigelow's winning moment was not only groundbreaking--she is the first female Oscar winner for Best Director--but also a bit dramatic, as Bigelow beat out the favorite (and her ex-), Avatar director James Cameron.  To make things more uncomfortable, Cameron was seated directly behind the winner!  That awkward moment was quickly replaced by another, when diva extraordinaire presenter Barbra Streisand tried to take Bigelow's Oscar while the director gave her acceptance speech.  Bigelow politely, but firmly, declined Babs' offer, opting to hold her Oscar while speaking to the Academy audience.  To top it off, the house orchestra played the two women offstage with a rendition of the 70s female empowerment anthem "I Am Woman."  I loved this winning moment for its historic significance, but more for its extreme awkwardness.


9. Hilary Swank's upset Best Actress win for Boys Don't Cry (2000 telecast)

Hilary Swank Boys Don't Cry Oscar

Watch Hilary's winning moment here

2000 was supposed to be Annette Bening's year, as she had swept many other acting awards for her performance as an uptight suburban wife in American Beauty.  In the Oscar upset heard 'round the world, Hollywood newcomer Hilary Swank took home the Best Actress prize for her role as transgendered teen Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry. Adding to the drama, Swank forgot to thank her then-husband Chad Lowe during her acceptance speech.  The actress was berated for her oversight until her second win in 2004 for Million Dollar Baby, when she redeemed herself by including Lowe as one of the first "thank-yous" in her speech. Swank's first Oscar win catapulted her to Hollywood stardom, and she continues to earn many acting accolades.


8. Marion Cotillard's surprise Best Actress win for La Vie en Rose (2008 telecast)

Marion Cotillard Oscar

Watch Marion's winning moment here

Though Marion Cotillard received great acclaim for her transformative performance as French singer Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, she was not expected to win the Best Actress Oscar, as she was largely unknown to American audiences.  Fellow nominees Ellen Page (Juno), and Julie Christie (Away from Her), had received a great deal of industry buzz leading up to the big show, and had been heavily favored to take the prize.  Marion's reaction to her unexpected win was memorable for her genuine shock, and heartfelt speech.  With a shaky voice and an effervescent smile, Marion proclaimed "Thank you life, thank you love, and it's true: There's some angels in this city."


7. Adrien Brody's surprise win for The Pianist...and his sloppy kiss with Halle Berry (2003 telecast)

Adrien Brody Halle Berry

Watch Adrien's winning moment (and kiss with Halle) here

Until earning his Best Actor Oscar for The Pianist, Adrien Brody was a little-known actor, who had mostly appeared in small, character roles. He was the underdog among his fellow Best Actor nominees that year, who included favorites Jack Nicholson (nominated for his performance in About Schmidt), and Daniel Day-Lewis, (nominated for his memorable role as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York). When presenter Halle Berry called Adrien's name, the audience erupted into surprised applause.  The elated actor ran onstage and shocked Berry by giving her a dramatic smooch before launching into his acceptance speech. The actor's winning moment would have been memorable enough for the upset and the kiss, but Adrien sealed his place in legendary Oscar win history, when he made a heartfelt plea for a swift end to the war in Iraq.  Little did the actor know that both the war and the impact of his winning moment would last for years to come.


6. Angelina Jolie's Best Supporting Actress win for Girl, Interrupted, and odd tribute to/sloppy kiss with her brother, James (2000 telecast)

Angelina Jolie Brother Kiss

Watch Angelina's winning moment here

What a difference a decade makes.  When Angelina won her Best Actress Academy Award in 2000, she was known for her kooky behavior, but nothing could prepare the Oscar audience for her antics that night.  The actress showed up in a Morticia Addams-inspired getup, and when she won, Jolie accepted her Oscar by proclaiming, "I'm so in love with my brother right now." If that weren't odd enough, after the ceremony, the actress open-mouth kissed her sibling.  Guess she's recovered nicely from this infamous gaffe, as she's now dating Brad Pit, enjoys a lucrative acting career, and is the mother of six gorgeous children.  As much as I enjoy the stable Angelina, I kinda miss the old, blood vile-wearing one.


5. Anna Paquin's Best Supporting Actress win for The Piano (1994 telecast)

Anna Paquin Oscar

Watch Anna's winning moment here

She's best known these days for her role as Sookie Stackhouse on the HBO drama True Blood, but in the early 1990s, Anna Paquin made a name for herself by becoming the second-youngest Oscar winner in history at the age of 11 (the youngest is Tatum O'Neal, who won for her supporting role in Paper Moon when she was 10).  Paquin won the Best Supporting Actress prize for her role in the Australian film The Piano.  Her speech may go down as the cutest in Oscar history, as the youngster remained speechless for a lengthy period before thanking a few people, and quickly leaving the podium. What a way to launch a career!


4. Halle Berry's historic/hysteric Best Actress win for Monster's Ball (2002 telecast)

Halle Berry Oscar

Watch Halle's winning moment here

"This moment is so much bigger than me."  Humble, she's not.  But gosh did the 2002 Best Actress winner give a memorable, melodramatic acceptance speech.  Clocking-in at just under five minutes, Halle Berry's winning moment had it all: The endless thank yous to no-name industry people (including her lawyers, who had recently helped her with a controversial hit-and-run incident), effusive praise to trailblazers like Sidney Poitier and Oprah, and sentimental acknowledgement of her family. Though it was thrilling to see an African-American woman win the Best Actress prize for the first time, it became less thrilling and more uncomfortable as the actress bawled uncontrollably, and kept reminding the audience of the moment's importance.


3. Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s enthusiastic Best Supporting Actor win for Jerry Maguire (1997 telecast)

Cuba Gooding Jr. Oscar

Watch Cuba's winning moment here

Cuba Gooding, Jr. set the standard for accepting an Oscar when he won the Best Supporting Actor award for his role in Jerry Maguire.  About 10-15 seconds into his speech, the Academy orchestra started to play him offstage.  Instead of surrendering to the exit cue, Gooding continued his speech, shouting his thank-yous over the music. By the end of his acceptance, he had proclaimed his love for everyone in the room, and set his Oscar on the stage floor so he could leap with joy.  Though Gooding has acted in many films since his Academy Award win, he remains best known for this legendary winning moment.


2. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's Best Orignal Screenplay win for Good Will Hunting (1998 telecast)

Matt Damon Ben Affleck Oscar

Watch Matt and Ben's winning moment here

These Boston-bred buddies burst onto the Hollywood scene with their Academy Award win for Best Original Screenplay for their film, Good Will Hunting.  Though their movie was wonderful, it was their Oscar acceptance speech that really catapulted the two to stardom.  When they heard their names called, the young men ran onstage, proceeded to shout their thank-yous, stated their love for their mothers, "the most "beautiful women [in the room]," and fist-pumped their Oscars into the air as they ended their speech.  Both actors are now huge stars, but in my heart, they will forever remain these excited young winners.


1. Roberto Benigni's Best Foreign Language Film win for Life is Beautiful (1999 telecast)

Roberto Benigni Oscar

Watch Roberto's winning moment here

Roberto Benigni's Best Foreign Language film win for Life is Beautiful tops the list.  This winning moment was, in my opinion, the most outrageous and amazing in recent memory. When presenter Sophia Loren announced his film as the winner, Benigni leaped atop the back of his neighbor's chair, and jumped joyfully from seat to seat.  When he finally landed on stage, he made some of the most memorable statements of the evening, including "I want to kiss everybody because you are the image of joy," and "I feel I want to dive into this ocean of generosity."  The director's genuine enthusiasm was a treat to watch, and likely made the most cynical of award show viewers believe in Oscar night magic.

'Biutiful' is Underwhelming, Bardem is Unbelievable

By cdahlen · February 13, 2011

Javier Bardem Biutiful

Javier Bardem as Uxbal in Biutiful

The director of Biutiful, Alejandro González Iñárritu, is known for creating poetic, powerful cinematic projects. His past films, Amores Perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003), and Babel (2006), have earned the director much critical acclaim and commercial success. Though Biutiful has the magical Iñárritu ingredients for success—somber storyline, mesmerizing actors, gritty city landscape—this film fails to match its predecessors’ excellence.

In Biutiful, Javier Bardem plays Uxbal, a single father of two living in Barcelona, who survives via black market business practices: Managing professional street peddlers and overseeing the trafficking of illegal immigrant laborers. In addition to his underworld activities, Uxbal also works as a medium, and is hired by local families to communicate with their recently deceased loved ones. Bardem’s character soon faces his own mortality, when he is diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, and learns he has only a few months left to live. Once he learns his fate, Uxbal must make peace with those around him, and most importantly, with himself.

Biutiful’s title is ironic, as this film’s imagery is, frankly, really ugly. Barcelona looks wholly unappealing, with its dingy storefronts, seedy nightclubs, crime-ridden streets. The characters match their landscape: the men are dirty, sweaty, and boorish, and the women wear their makeup smeared, their hair in mousey highlights, and their clothes in tattered disrepair. Perhaps the most un-“biutiful” imagery in the film is Bardem’s ghastly physical presence. Uxbal’s body gradually becomes ravaged by his aggressive cancer, and we see all of the unpleasant side-effects. I had to turn away from the screen on multiple occasions because of the extreme nature of Uxbal’s physical condition.

The film’s plot and themes share the ugliness of its imagery. Instead of achieving poetry, Iñárritu presents a convoluted film: A muddled story, under-developed characters, and perplexing plot moments. Biutiful differs from Iñárritu’s previous films, as it features one central plotline—Uxbal’s story—instead of multiple, intersecting narratives. We see Uxbal’s complex bond with his bipolar ex-wife, fascination with his deceased father, close-knit connection with a peddler’s family, tumultuous business alliance with a pair of Chinese businessmen, and tenuous relationship with his irresponsible brother; however, none of these stories is ever fleshed out. Perhaps the director should have stuck to his previous films’ storytelling formula, as this film never gels into a solid, comprehensible piece. By the end, I felt as if I had been dragged through an emotionally and visually wrenching experience, but I had little empathy for or connection to the characters and story.

Alejandro González Iñárritu

Biutiful director Alejandro González Iñárritu

The film’s saving grace is its star, the magnificent Javier Bardem. In a departure from his recent, dashing leading man roles, (the seductive Felipe in Eat Pray Love, and the irresistible Juan Antonio in Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Bardem descends into despair as the tragic hero, Uxbal. Though his character feels deep affection for his family and close friends, he struggles to find his way in a morally corrupt world. Bardem’s commitment to the role makes the film watchable. When I felt lost in the jumbled plot, I focused on Bardem’s performance, and found myself utterly mesmerized. With the subtlety of a downward glance, and the slightest quiver in his voice, the actor creates an unforgettable portrait of an emotionally and physically damaged man. His recent Oscar nomination for Best Actor is more than deserved.

Though Biutiful was a disappointment, Iñárritu is still a fascinating, thought-provoking filmmaker. I look forward to seeing where he takes his next project. More importantly, I look forward to seeing the Biutiful lead actor NOT as the sickly Uxbal, but as the sexy Javier in a tuxedo on the Oscar red carpet!

Happy 1st Birthday, 'Carly's Critiques!'

By cdahlen · February 10, 2011

A year ago today, I posted my first entry on Carly's Critiques.  Can't believe how time flies!  Thanks to everyone who has supported me throughout this exciting endeavor.  I look forward to another year of sharing my movie opinions with all of my Carly's Critiques fans!

Tagged with: Carly's Critiques

'The Fighter': Great acting, so-so storytelling

By cdahlen · January 23, 2011

The Fighter movie review

Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale as Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund in The Fighter

I’ll admit, I only saw The Fighter because of the buzz around Christian Bale’s performance. I generally don’t love boxing movies. However, a small part of me was hoping that, despite my disinterest in the genre, I would end up loving the film. Did Bale live up to the hype? Absolutely. Did I love The Fighter? Not so much.

Based on a true story, The Fighter profiles Massachusetts siblings Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, played by Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Both brothers are boxers: Dicky is a former champion who knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard in a 1970s match, and younger brother Micky is an up-and-coming fighter. The road to success is not easy for the brothers, as they deal with Dicky’s drug addiction, Micky’s inconsistent performances in the ring, and their hot-tempered mother, Alice (Melissa Leo). The duo face additional challenges when Micky’s outspoken new girlfriend, Charlene (Amy Adams), interferes with the family plan for Micky’s career. It’s no wonder the film is called The Fighter: Every character faces major challenges.

Micky Ward Dicky Eklund

Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund

This is a great story, but it lacks great storytelling. You’d think director David O. Russell would have learned a thing or two about rhythm from Dicky Eklund: A punch to the head, then a punch to the body will knock someone out. The Fighter is missing a punch. Scenes that should be short drag on without cause, and plot points that need in-depth attention are glossed over. Micky’s indecision about how to handle his fledgling career takes up an exorbitant amount of screen time: Conversations with family, friends, the girlfriend, the brother, etc. Micky’s indecision is mostly caused by his complex relationship with his dysfunctional family—especially with his troubled brother, Dicky. However, we never learn the roots of the family issues. Why, for example, do all of Micky and Dicky’s adult sisters still live at Mom and Dad’s house? That detail seems too odd to go unexamined. Also, what prompted Dicky’s addiction issues? We hear plenty about his glory days, but almost nothing of his drug-filled downfall. By the time we meet Dicky, he spends his days smoking out in the neighborhood crack house, or getting busted by local cops. With a bit more context around the Eklund-Ward family history, and a bit less of Micky’s turmoil, The Fighter would have been much more riveting.

The acting is a different story, save for the typecast tough guy Mark Wahlberg. He does just fine—heck, he looks exactly like the real Micky Ward—but this role is not a stretch. We’ve seen this type from Wahlberg many times: Tough guy soldier in Three Kings, tough guy sailor in The Perfect Storm, tough guy cop in The Departed, etc. We’re ready for something new. Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, and Amy Adams, on the other hand, are a treat to watch. Bale impeccably captures the unpredictable behavior of an addict. One minute he’s on top of the world, socializing with everyone in town and building up his kid brother’s confidence, the next he’s holed up in a drug den, running two hours late for boxing practice. Bale’s Dicky is a wholly empathetic character, despite his extraordinary personal problems. The actor deserves every one of his award season accolades. Melissa Leo is fantastic as the over-the-top matriarch, Alice Ward. Though outspoken and opinionated, Alice remains in denial over Dicky’s addiction problems. Leo creates a believable character who struggles to reconcile her forceful persona with her debilitating codependency. Amy Adams is delightful as firecracker girlfriend, Charlene. This role is a departure for Adams, whose previous onscreen personas have spanned the spectrum of good girl types: Nun, Disney princess, rom-com heroine. As Micky’s girlfriend, she throws down f-bombs, rocks cleavage-bearing tanks, and incites a nasty gal-on-gal fistfight. Adams more than holds her own among the formidable Bale and Leo.

Though The Fighter lacks some storytelling muscle, it’s worth seeing for the impressive performances. Oscar is a-calling, Mr. Bale!

'Blue Valentine': A melancholy must-see

By cdahlen · December 26, 2010

Michelle Williams Ryan Gosling

Break-ups are awful, so why in the heck would you want to spend $13.50 to watch a fictional one? Because Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are two damn good actors.

The two play Dean and Cindy, a young, married couple on the verge of ending their relationship. The film moves between past and present, juxtaposing scenes from when the two first met and fell in love, to their less-happy lives as a passionless married couple. As a young woman, Cindy had dreams of going to medical school and becoming a physician, and the 20-something Dean was a free spirit with a ukulele and a lust for life. Instead, she becomes an OB tech, he, a depressed alcoholic. The two try to keep up appearances for their precocious young daughter, but the love from their earlier years has all but faded.

Much of this film's publicity has been generated by its NC-17 rating and rumored gratuitous sex scenes. Both of these turned out to be exaggerations: The rating has since been switched to an "R," and the sex scenes are pretty standard in terms of nudity and content. Heck, there wasn't even any full frontal!  ANYway...the most surprising aspect of the film was the skillful shift in acting styles by Gosling and Williams. Both actors transition seamlessly between their past and present selves. Gosling maintains his character's quirky persona throughout; but what was fun and carefree behavior in the young Dean becomes unpredictable and inappropriate conduct from the older Dean. The Gosling's younger character sings and dances his way into Cindy's heart, but the elder yells and drinks his way out of it. Wiliams' transition is more subtle, but just as powerful. Cindy is a fragile, sensitive woman--that never changes--but she loses the light in her eyes, which might be a more tragic fate than Dean's. Cindy becomes resigned to her situation as an unhappy wife, unaccomplished medical professional, and unsatisfied mother, and has no motivation to make a change. Dean tries to salvage the relationship, but lacks the will to own up to his shortcomings.

I wouldn't recommend a screening of Blue Valentine to anyone who is in the midst of a breakup. Seriously, don't see it.  BUT...if you're in a healthy emotional place and wish to see two amazing onscreen performances, purchase a ridiculously overpriced movie ticket immediately!

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