Friday, January 25, 2008

The Ups and Downs of Entertainment

New at Since Last Week:
Mad Money
27 Dresses

Wow…it’s been quite a week in the entertainment world, hasn’t it?

First, on Tuesday, I got to my desk to check the list of Oscar nominees. A few nominees were blatantly obvious; a few were surprises. I, for one, was shocked and disturbed by the nod given to Norbit. Now, I realize that it’s for makeup. And I’m sure that it took some makeup magic to get Eddie Murphy to cross both gender and racial lines. But do we really want to encourage people to do it again? I say no.

But then came the real shock of the week. On Tuesday, I was scrambling to finish up a few last reviews before heading out to a screening, and I listened to a CD on the way to the theater—so when I got there, I had no idea what had happened. It wasn’t until we were all settled in that Kevin said, “So everyone heard about Heath Ledger already, right?”

“No,” I said, figuring it was some new role he’d signed on to play. “What about him?”

“He’s dead.”

It all just came out of nowhere, and it knocked the wind out of me for a second. Really, I thought Kevin was messing with me—because that’s what Kevin does. But he wasn’t messing with me at all.

Before the movie started, we just sat there, talking about how tragic it was, how it made no sense. At that point, speculation was still leaning toward suicide, and no one could really understand why. Why Heath Ledger? Some might say he was at the top of his game, but I wouldn’t say that—because the top of his game was still to come.

It still surprises me that Heath’s death hit me as hard as it did. It kept me awake that night. It distracted me the next day. And I’m still struggling with it today. And it’s strange—because celebrities come and go in the blink of an eye. But there was something about Heath. Ever since the first time I saw 10 Things I Hate About You, I was a fan (though, just for the record, my husband laughed at me when I told him that I thought Heath would be a nice name if we were to have a son one day). I’ve loved his work—and it was clear he was extraordinarily gifted. He was different. And, well, he was one of those bright spots in my job as a critic. He was one of those actors whom I always looked forward to watching. I looked forward to seeing what he’d do next. But, on top of all that, Heath actually seemed like a genuinely good guy. He never seemed to be obsessed with his own fame. He never seemed to be caught up in the life of a celebrity. He didn’t try to be a star. He just did what he loved—and he was good at it. And, outside that, he just seemed like an ordinary guy. He wasn’t the guy you’d expect to overdose in some dark alley—or to get drunk and run his expensive sports car into a tree. He was the guy you expected to do his job and then return to his own personal hideaway to dote on his kids. He was the guy you expected to take on those classic, memorable roles, to win Oscars, to grow old gracefully, to live a good, long life. And when someone like that leaves us so early, it’s tragic. Heartbreaking.

Really, it’s hard to just move on and blather on about the crap I saw this week under the circumstances. After I heard about Heath’s death, I had to sit through Untraceable, which was so stupid that it made me angry.

Today, though…today I was looking forward to getting out. And after such a heavy week, I needed something like Rambo.

Since Rambo didn’t screen for press, we actually had to wait for the day of release like everyone else. We had to actually pay to get in. But we just couldn’t resist. So David, Jason, and I met up for the 11:15 screening.

As I stepped forward to buy my ticket, I announced, “One for Rambo.”

The woman behind the glass looked a little surprised. “I would have taken you for more of the 27 Dresses type,” she said. That made me laugh—especially since I didn’t exactly love 27 Dresses, and I was actually looking forward to seeing Rambo.

We totally expected the theater to be empty. Really—and 11 a.m. screening of Rambo? But there were actually quite a few people there—and I think there were even two other women. And to add to the fun, we even got to watch a trailer for Midnight Meat Train. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

As for the movie, what can I say? It was one crazy experience. There were flying severed limbs and exploding heads. The dialogue—what dialogue there was—rarely made any sense. But it was so much fun. And, well, it was funny. At one point, I laughed so hard that tears came streaming down my face—and Jason was worried that I was going to choke to death. It’s just that over-the-top. It’s blessedly craptacular. And it was the perfect way to spend a Friday morning.

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