You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2009.

Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey bring "Eternal Sunshine" to Michel Gondry's modern masterpiece.

By Gina Carbone

OK, so 2000-2009 isn’t exactly a full decade.

But in the past nine years we’ve seen an exceptional amount of cinematic innovation, from narrative structure (“Memento”) to genre rebirth (“Moulin Rouge”) to epic franchises that aimed higher than the common denominator (“Lord of the Rings,” “Bourne,” “Kill Bill”).

Purists will pish-posh the early millennium’s offerings, but they pish-posh everything that happened after the 1970s.

We’ve been fortunate in the 00’s to see the rise of a new crop of auteurs, who continue to surprise, delight, inform and educate with their talent.

Without further ado, here are my top 20 films from (almost) the first decade of the 21st century:

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

2. Memento (2001)

3. Finding Nemo (2003)

4. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)

5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

6. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

7. Moulin Rouge (2003)

8. Amelie (2001)

9. The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum (2002, 2004, 2007)

10. Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003-2004)

11. Bowling for Columbine (2002)

12. City of God (2002)

13. The Dark Knight (2008)

14. There Will Be Blood (2007)

15. The Lives of Others (2006)

16. The Departed (2006)

17. Zodiac (2007)

18. Iris (2001)

19. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

20. The Hurt Locker (2009)

Go ahead and have affairs with the production crew or each other. Just leave Chris Harrison alone. He's mine.

By Gina Carbone

ABC has finally learned what’s important about “The Bachelor.” Not love. Not a ring. Not a wedding, Lord knows, or they’d be up Wes Hayden creek without a paddle.

Nah. They just need drama. Some gasps. A few tears. Preferably a balcony upon which to shed those tears while screaming in agony to the sky.

“The Bachelor: On the Wings of Love” (tee hee) with pilot Jake Pavelka starts Monday, Jan. 4 and ABC is trotting out some salacious new video on the official Web site.

The latest video starts typically enough, with Voice-Over Lady promising that “When it comes to winning his heart, the sky’s the limit.”

“I’m falling in love with him,” one of the bachelorette clones is heard saying.

(Is it just me, or are they all THE EXACT SAME GIRL every season?)

… And then Voice-Over Lady’s tone becomes more naughty:

“But it wouldn’t be ‘The Bachelor’ if it didn’t start with one shocking scandal.”

This is said over a montage of tears and gasps.

Then another clone voice says, “She’s been having this sexual affair with somebody else in ‘The Bachelor’ house,” while the camera shows women rolling around together followed by Jake throwing a rose into the fire.

Now I doubt we’ll really get any girl-on-girl action. Unless ABC has been given a corporate mandate to get more male viewers. (They are promoting a blondes vs. brunettes football game, so maybe that’s exactly the deal.)

I was alerted to the “shocking scandal”/”sexual affair” video by BuddyTV, which then linked to Fans of Reality TV, which is doing all kinds of spoiler sleuthing.

Way back on Dec. 14, a commenter called eowenc wrote, “I just received a call from someone who works for me who is a huge TB fan but unspoiled. He reports that Howard Stern on his show today talked about having viewed a few episodes of Jake’s season and there is a large amount of Drama and Howard thinks the show will be great. He reported to his audience that one of the 15 a few episodes into the show is caught having an affair with one of the production crew.”

Heaven knows I’m not going to listen to Howard Stern for more clues, but if this is true … it’s very interesting.

And this sort of bright-eyed, hand-rubbing “reeaalllly?” drama is exactly why I watch “The Bachelor.”

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You may recognize Susan Boyle over there to the right as the one who didn't win "Britain's Got Talent." The real winners, Diversity, are pretty much unknown State-side.

By Gina Carbone

There’s a reason No. 2 stands for turd. It stinks. No one wants to be runner-up. He or she usually fades into the mist as the one who almost made it, but no dice. Handshake. Thanks for stopping by.

Except for 2009. From “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” to “So You Think You Can Dance” and last night’s “Survivor: Samoa” finale, this is the year when coming in second was the real win.

Let’s take a look:

Adam for the win.


Winner: Kris Allen

Second: Adam Lambert

Verdict: Please. Kris is a sweetheart and very talented, but the star of “American Idol” season 8 and the rest of the year, was Adam Lambert. He got the magazine covers (before and after coming out), the controversy (calm down, ABC) and during last week’s “So You Think You Can Dance” finale, Adam got the coveted finale night performance spot when Kris had to settle for the week before. Plus — and this is the biggie — Adam’s debut album has outsold Kris’ by a wide margin. We have our winner.


Winner: Shawn Johnson & Mark Ballas

Second: Gilles Marini & Cheryl Burke

Gilles & Cheryl

Verdict: We were told it was the closest ever finale – there was less than 1 percent difference between first and second. But first was little Olympian Shawn Johnson instead of the smoldering and memorable ratings bait that was Gilles Marini. He made his name with the season (nice job, bare chest!) and got more air time in the fall DWTS season when pro dancers name-dropped him as the person to channel when doing Latin dances. Shawn is still just the cute little gymnast without much pizzazz. I don’t remember a single one of her dances but Gilles — we all talked about Gilles.


Winner: Jeanine Mason

Second: Brandon Bryant

Verdict: Jeanine was a huge crowd favorite, so this is not as much of a major upset as some of the others. Except to me. I loved


Brandon from season four, when he never quite made it through. He and Kayla Radomski were the most talented and consistent dancers in an otherwise weak season five. Jeanine wasn’t even on the radar for most of the season but seemed to blow everybody away by twirling around in her final solo. Not enough for me.


Winner:  Ed Swiderski

Second: Reid Rosenthal (OK, it was actually Kiptyn Locke, but Reid came back on the finale anyway)

Verdict: Reid was neurotic, but he was honest. He was real. He was adorable. Ed, on the other hand, left Jillian Harris halfway through the season then changed his mind. According to tabloid reports, while he was away he was playing with some ladies back in Chicago. I have a feeling if Jillian chose Reid she would not have had to do so much tabloid deflection. Ed is kind of sketchy and wears creepy short shorts. Reid, you were robbed of the girl and your chance to be the next Bachelor. Hope the real estate thing is working out for you.


Winner: Diversity dance group

Second: Susan Boyle

Verdict: Some people don’t seem to realize Susan Boyle didn’t win her show. America took to her like Simon Cowell to Botox and we never really checked over the pond to see what else was going on. While we were crying over YouTube, a dance group called Diversity went and stole Suzie’s win on “Britain’s Got Talent.” No idea what they can do but I’ve seen and heard plenty from Susan Boyle since her “loss.” She gets a standing ovation just for showing up to “sing” whether live or recorded. She had the top YouTube video of the year and one of the top selling albums of the year — if not the top selling album. Her name has even been tapped for the next Bond theme. If that doesn’t say “big winner” then you tell me what does.


Mya & DmitryWinner: Donny Osmond & Kym Johnson

Second: Mya & Dmitry Chaplin

Verdict: I love Donny and he was quite the showman, but there is no question the best dancer of season nine was Mya. She was on fya the whole time. Some people griped that she had dance experience and others griped that she didn’t show enough personality or progression because she started out great. I always looked forward to her dances and the other contestants were terrified of her talent. Derek Hough even showed Joanna Krupa video of Mya dancing to point out what Joanna should do. What does that tell you about the best dancer of the season? I voted for you, Mya.


Winner: Russell Ferguson

Second: Jakob Karr

Jakob Karr

Verdict: Very similar thing going on here. Russell was the underdog krumper who had a kind of shaky season, but did gain skills and always put on a great show. He had to deal with multiple partner changes, due to their injuries, but still worked through everything with a smile. But Jakob is probably the single best dancer SYTYCD has ever had. He was magic out there. He owned the season. I can’t imagine anyone could argue otherwise. He elevated every partner he danced with, and judge/executive producer Nigel Lythgoe suggested he join a pro dance company so he could dance with others of his caliber — acknowledging that there was no one on his level on the show. But he was always a generous partner, never hogging the spotlight, even when he could. That’s a winner to me.


Winner: Natalie White

Second: Russell Hantz

Russell, stop crying. It's OK.

Verdict: I saw this coming, even if Russell and his minions did not. Russell played an outstanding game of “Survivor” but he played it hard and obvious and “Survivor” history tells you how frequently this backfires. Natalie was the quiet threat who came off as a non-threat. And to a bitter jury, tired of Russell’s near constant lies — from being a Hurricane Katrina victim to making and breaking alliances on a daily basis — Natalie was a breath of fresh air. Some anti-cynicism for a tired group. Nineteen seasons into a show,  you can’t bank on everyone rewarding you for playing by your own personal strategy. That said, Russell was in complete control of Samoa from day one. He may not have won, but he was the star of the season and the real leader of Foa Foa who got his teammates to the finals. He will be remembered. Natalie will not.


This year did feature some good decisions, including “Bloody Eyeball” Nicole Fox on “America’s Next Top Model” and Irina Shabayeva in the weak L.A. season of “Project Runway.”


“America’s Got Talent” — Barbara Padilla or the actual winner, Kevin Skinner? I can’t decide anymore.

Natalie won. And not just for being a hot coattail rider. She earned it. She did!

By Gina Carbone

Woo hoo! I’m excited for Natalie White, since I wanted her to win “Survivor: Samoa” — and predicted it several times — but I’m still surprised.

Russell is TICKED that he didn't win. He wants to buy the title. He would.

Russell Hantz was this season. He owned it. And he knew it. And that was his downfall. That arrogance Erik Cardona singled out in his thoughtful jury speech. (See recent “Survivor” posts for more on the finale.)

Poor Mick. You didn't belong in the finale, man.

Poor Mick. Mick Trimming was the odd man out. No votes. It was a two-way finale even if he was sitting with them. He just got to listen to Shambo — of all people — insult him as “feckless” and possibly fart at him. Hard to tell.

Russell looked ticked during the live reading of the votes. Natalie was thrilled even beforehand. Did they know the outcome?

And, by the way, this was not a coattail victory. Natalie not only killed a rat, she knocked out Erik (who made that speech for her) and was sure to play a strong social game. Never nasty to anyone. Prayer warrior. God was on her side.

During the reunion special, Russell started tearing up. He said he felt he played the best strategic game in history. What a crybaby! He said Natalie’s best move was to jump on his back.

Jeff polled the jury. If Russell had brought Shambo or Jaison to the jury he would’ve won.

He told Natalie all he wants is the title of Sole Survivor. He offered to pay her $10,000 for the title.

The audience loves Russell. Russell said he’s not the only one who thinks he played the best strategic game.

Jaison said people hate Russell in real life. Russell said Jaison is still bitter about the burning socks. Russell pulled out a pair of socks … and put it in the fire.

Russell was named the Sprint Player of the Season and got $100,000. He was up against Shambo and Brett.

At least he won something. Now his ego can go in peace. Or just go.

I hate this guy, but he does deserve to win.

By Gina Carbone

Evil Russell Hantz (lest we forget, the first night on Samoa, Russell convinced everyone he was a Hurricane Katrina survivor. He wasn’t.) just dethroned prayer warrior Brett Clouser as the immunity king.

But the name of the final episode of “Survivor: Samoa” is “This Game Ain’t Over,” and since that sounds like the kind of vernacular Russell uses, I’m hesitant before naming him the winner of this season.

Still, how can he lose? Other than Jaison Robinson, who said he would not vote for Russell (see below), who on the jury could deny Russell the Puppet Master?

Unless … Russell is actually true to his word to Brett and keeps him in the final three.

I’m thinking there’s no chance of that, but we’ll see. Russell also promised to keep Mick.

Can’t wait to see how Russell defends his nastiness in the reunion special tonight.

*** Update: 9:23 p.m. ***


Russell — it always comes down to Russell — decided to dump Brett and keep a pure Foa Foa final. Erik — who can always be counted on to whisper commentary from the jury — whispered “They did it.”

They did indeed.

Russell may well want his daughters to marry someone like Brett (if they are anything like their father they don’t deserve Brett) but he could never keep Brett in the game. Brett is, as Jaison put it, what they were: The underdog.

So it’s Russell, Mick and Natalie in the end. I hate when it’s a three-way finale. I want Natalie vs. Russell. Russell will win anyway, but Mick is just dead weight at this point.

Except, Mick is right when it comes to Russell.

Russell was grilling Natalie about what answers she would give the jury. He kept pressing and pressing and I’m wondering why the heck he cares. Even Natalie told him to let up. Mick said Russell made some good points about how he was up against a nice guy and a nice girl, but he needs to be reminded he couldn’t have done it without them.

Mick is right. And Russell is getting cocky. That can backfire. Tell me it backfires.

Russell said if Mick or Natalie won over him it would be “a shame” and not make sense to him. (That’s because you’re an arrogant arse.)

*** Update: 9:38 p.m. ******


Very different opening statements to the jury.

Mick basically said he wanted to play a moral game where he never screwed anybody over and accomplished it.

Natalie basically wanted to prove to herself she could do this and now she has more confidence. She thanked the jury for getting her there.

Russell — and I think this is his one big bad move so far — gloated. Gloated hard. Pointed out his moves from getting rid of Marisa and Betsy to his big moves with Kelly, Laura, John and Brett.

He openly congratulated himself at the expense of several jury members. He’s right that he did outwit and outplay Mick and Natalie. But no one likes to be insulted while you have your hand out for a million bucks.

Jaison wanted the three to talk about who they really were. They did. He said none of them lied but they didn’t mention they are not suffering for money and the jury should not base the vote on who needs the money. Why would they? What a wasted question.

Shambo apologized for breaking up Galu, then said Mick’s overall game would have to be called “feckless.” She said Natalie deserves a word that starts with a “c” … coattails. She was nasty! Where was this nastiness for her own tribe? Or Russell, who said she had “ass breath.” “Natalie, Mick, no way in God’s green earth you’re getting my vote.” Why does she still support Russell? And did she fart?

Brett congratulated them, then asked Mick what they would do on a road date. (?) Umm… Mick said they would check out the news, grab something to eat, talk about girls and sports. That was it? Brett wanted to see how much they had paid attention to who he was.

Kelly said she and Natalie were perceived as similar, but Natalie was never on the field. (So not true.) Kelly said Natalie always asked for help. Natalie tried to defend herself. Kelly asked about Russell’s lying. Russell said he’s not like this at all at home and he doesn’t want his kids to think he’s like this. Kelly asked what three words — instead of lie, cheat and steal — he would use to describe himself. He said honor, integrity and loyalty. She had trouble believing that.

Monica wanted fight from Mick and Natalie. She asked each one why they deserve the money over the other two. Mick sold Natalie out and said she did nothing but ride Russell’s coattails. Russell lied and pit people against each other and his ego got out of control. Russell said Mick and Natalie gave him high fives for being a snake. They didn’t mind following the snake.

Dave asked them all what they thought their chances were. Mick said 25 percent. Natalie said maybe a 30-40 percent. Russell said he came in with a larger percentage but now he’s thinking 55 percent.

Laura asked Russell what he learned about her to beat her. Russell said she was the biggest threat and he had to get rid of her.

John asked for the hard sell from Mick. “Blow my mind right now.” Mick went for the character argument, saying the ends don’t justify the means. “I don’t think you can give it to a more stand-up dude up here.” John said Natalie got here tucked under Russell’s wing, so how can she justify winning? She said she saw how the strongest women were voted out first so she learned from that. And she killed a rat. John said that was the argument — or the fight — some of the jurors were waiting to hear from her.

Erik said Mick was named Foa Foa leader but did nothing as a leader. No one on the team did anything and they had no guts. It was his responsibility and he never rose to that challenge. Erik said Russell played an unethical game but he was rewarded. “Did you get to the right place while behaving the wrong way?” He said Russell was sitting there proud of it. Erik said people will call Natalie weak and undeserving, but why are those characteristics any less admirable than lying, cheating and stealing? Why does Russell get a free pass while she is admonished? “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this game, perception is not reality.” Natalie would say she is the least deserving, but maybe in an environment of arrogance (Russell) and self-delusion (Mick), maybe she is the most deserving. She has his vote. Natalie seemed to tear up during his speech.

Yes! Natalie for the win? If perception is not reality, then the perception that Russell should win may not be the reality after all…

*** Update: 10 p.m. ******


1. Natalie

2. Russell

3. Natalie

4. Russell

5. Natalie

6. Natalie

7. Natalie

Woo hoo!

Go rest now, Jaison.

By Gina Carbone

Brett Clouser won his third immunity in a row on “Survivor: Samoa,” forcing the original Foa Foa foursome — Russell Hantz, Natalie White, Mick Trimming and Jaison Robinson — to eat one of their own.

Russell, as usual, played everyone against each other, telling Jaison they would vote off Mick so — once Brett was out of the way  — it could be Russell, Natalie and Jaison.

On the other side of his mouth, Russell told Mick they would vote off Jaison because Jaison had already mentally and physically checked out of the game. He wasn’t going to help them to beat Brett in the final immunity challenge.

Russell originally told Natalie her head would be on the chopping block as the only woman — and she didn’t fight him, dang her — but he said he would save her.

At no point did it seem to even cross their minds that FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WE SHOULD JUST GET RID OF RUSSELL.

So, entering tribal council, the two minds were: Keep someone who could possibly beat Brett (Mick) or keep someone who could possibly be beaten when they get to the jury (Jaison).

Russell, the only operational mind on the field, decided to dump Jaison.

It made sense. Jaison didn’t see it that way. He didn’t wave goodbye or wish anyone luck. He told the camera he was mad about Russell’s betrayal and would vote for Brett before Russell.

Interesting. I just assumed everyone would vote for Russell if he got to the jury since he completely controlled the game.

As we speak, the final immunity challenge is coming down to Brett and Russell. So much for the Mick argument: He was the first one out. Uh-oh. Russell won. I think he just won the million, too. (See story above)

Merry Christmas, Grandpa!

By Gina Carbone

Can you imagine being James Franco’s agent?

You have to watch him bounce from “Spider-Man” to sleeping through classes at Columbia University to “Pineapple Express” to “General Hospital” to stopping by SNL a few weeks ago for a non-speaking cameo during the “What Up With That” on Gerard Butler’s show. (Did he get paid for that?)

He must just tell his agent “I’m available” and leave it at that.

I loved Franco’s jokes about his own odd career choices during his “Saturday Night Live” monologue last night. He said he just spins an idea bin filled with suggestions from fans.

I wonder which fan suggested he should make out with multiple men during the “Kissing Family” skit?


The guy is game, I’ll give him that. Later in the show, he made out with Christmas trees.

And was … uh … serviced by Fred Armisen’s Liberace as James Dean (a role he’s familiar with) on the Vincent Price Christmas special.

He also (accidentally, I think) spit on Andy Samberg’s face as one of the ignorant frat boys (on your knees!) in the fraternity skit.

Usually my favorite skit of any show is Kenan Thompson’s “What Up With That” but this week the skit was … odd. Check it out and tell me what you think.

I’m not saying I think anyone was on drugs, but it was odd. Nice to see Mike Tyson there, he’s probably the only person they could find who tends to slur his words more than Franco. Congrats to Jack McBrayer of “30 Rock” for getting the non-speaking role. Love Bill Hader as the increasingly irritated Lindsey Buckingham.

There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, so why did I think the show was only so-so? There really wasn’t anything hugely funny or memorable, to me. Or maybe I’m still obsessed with the potato chip skit from the Blake Lively show.

But really I think I just expected the world of James Franco, who has hosted before and who is one of SNL’s best go-to guys.

The show used him in almost every skit — which shows their faith in him — but once again I think the writers could’ve stepped up their games a bit.

Franco’s show was 10 times better than Taylor Lautner’s (and 100 times better than poor January Jones’) but not quite in Taylor Swift country.

The kissing skit will probably be the most talked-about one from his show this year, but does the show as a whole stand up? Not sure. Check with me later.

Oh. By the way. I’m now a Muse fan.

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What has he been doing all season?

By Gina Carbone

How irritating would it be for T-shirt designer Brett Clouser to win “Survivor: Samoa” after only starting to speak in the last two episodes?

I’d be ticked. But I’d also be impressed.

He got this far because he flew so far under the radar no one on the island seemed to know he was still there. Until he started winning immunity challenges and Natalie White’s heart as a fellow prayer warrior.

On the island, the Bible is the new Shakespearean sonnet.

Natalie, I think you will win.

During the reward challenge (that host Jeff Probst said took almost four hours to complete) on “Two Brains Are Better Than One,” Natalie and Evil Russell Hantz were named captains. Natalie got to choose first and she raised eyebrows by picking the one Galu guy left, Brett.

Russell picked Jaison Robinson. Natalie picked Mick Trimming. Russell was left with Shambo.

Russell ended up winning the challenge for his team and they got to dance with native Samoans and enjoy a feast.

They also talked about Natalie’s decision. Russell — spin master — said it could be Natalie forming a new alliance with Brett and Mick. He said if Brett won immunity again, they should vote out Mick.

But he never meant it. He knew his bond with Natalie was tighter than that. But what he fails to see is Natalie’s bond with everyone else is even tighter. He underestimates her because he still sees her as the surviving member of this “dumbass girl alliance.”

Natalie has surpassed Russell in the overall standings by finessing her social game. She’s made friends with Galu members — who make up the jury — and stayed behind the scenes in the big moves. She could easily win this thing and I think she’s setting herself up as the biggest threat of the game.

Bye, Sham. At least you got to bond with the locals before Russell dumped you.

Brett ended up winning the count-the-stuff immunity challenge and instead of sending Mick home the Foa Foa foursome stuck together and chucked out Shambo, who was too (simple) sweet-natured to even get upset with them.

She applauded their loyalty. Even though Russell spent the episode saying nasty things about how she could hide food in her hair, and telling Mick she had “ass breath,” Shambo will still probably vote for Russell and cheer him on if he gets to the end.

She has such a good heart. But not much of a head (she said she’s had that mullet for 23 years).

Natalie, on the other hand, hears her heart telling her to stick with Brett but seems to be on track to follow her head. This is “Survivor,” after all, not “The Bachelor.”

You want to stick with Brett? Ask him to a prayer circle after you’re a millionaire.

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Nice job, Russell.

By Gina Carbone

Still love you best, Jakob. And since you are Jeanine Mason's childhood friend, I bet she was hoping you'd win this season too.

Jakob Karr was robbed from winning “So You Think You Can Dance” season six. But I’m still happy.

Russell Ferguson is from Boston and is now the first krumper to win SYTYCD. His talent has progressed throughout the season and he kept a positive attitude through multiple unexpected partner changes and even an injury himself on finale night.

And he needs this more than Jakob does. Being America’s Favorite Dancer is just a feather in the cap of the best dancer the show has ever seen. I hope Jakob takes Nigel Lythgoe’s advice and joins a company. He WILL be an amazing soloist.

So here is the official season 6 ranking:

1. Russell Ferguson, 20, Boston

2. Jakob Karr, 19, Windermere, Fla. (Hey, that’s Tiger Woods country! Wonder if they are neighbors…)

3. Kathryn McCormick, 19, Augusta, Ga.

4. Ellenore Scott, Santa Cruz, Calif.

5. Ashleigh Di Lello, 26, Orem, Utah

6. Ryan Di Lello, 28, Orem, Utah

See stories below for more on the two-hour finale. For the record, I’m ranking the performances as Mary J. Blige then Leona Lewis, Adam Lambert and Jennifer Lopez.

By Gina Carbone

Jennifer Lopez just emerged from a giant shoe, after calling Santa on the phone and asking for shoes she seemed to already be wearing.

This is all just a giant ad for Louboutins. Even though it sounds like Louis Vuitton.

What a huge production. All sorts of dancers. Didn’t look like she actually sang a note.

At least she didn’t appear to fall on her butt this time.

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