So it happened. It really happened. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences called AMC's bluff and went through with its awards ceremony last night despite running against the first, Twitter-spoiler-rife airing of Breaking Bad's supersize, penultimate episode, blithely handing out every last one of its statuettes like nothing more important was happening down the programming grid. They did not, as we humbly suggested in a very polite letter addressed to the President of Television, divert the hundreds of limousines carrying the presenters and nominees into the Nokia Theatre parking structure and hold everybody there until Monday night, with full in-car food and beverage service by always-accommodating host Neil Patrick Harris, so that we could have the necessary time to digest the more important show before dealing with the unnecessary distraction of their awards presentation.
But they never answered that letter. And so we, either because we are insane or because we made a cold, hard calculation about how to get through four hours and 15 minutes of total viewing as efficiently as possible, actually watched the Emmys first. Well played, TV Academy. We were weak. We blinked. We hope you feel good about the fact that we waited around to discover who took home your biggest prize before we allowed ourselves to actually watch that very same series demonstrate its current creative dominance. You're the winners today.
Oh, right: winners. We're here to talk about the winners. If you require the list of all the Emmy winners, you can find that right here, from your Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series to your Outstanding Costume Design in a Two-Time Variety Special (if that was a category — maybe it was. It's hard to be sure; they're handing stuff out for three hours). Right now we're more interested in the big winners, the totally unexpected winners. The winners we're still thinking about this morning, in the moments when we're able to catch our breath between the post-traumatic heart palpitations Breaking Bad gave us.
The real winners.
Let's run through them before the shortness of breath kicks in again.
Finally, finally, someone asked Matt Damon about Ben Affleck playing Batman. It was a bit malapropos: The reason Damon granted the interview with The Times of India is that he's traveling through the country plugging his organization, Water.org, which provides clean water and sanitation to villages. And, alhamdulillah, that didn't stop the reporter from finally asking Damon about Affleck playing Batman.
Elysium is Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to his debut, District 9, which came out of nowhere in 2009 to make serious money and even snag a Best Picture nomination. Appropriately, the follow-up is right in line with Hollywood's embrace of the young Blomkamp: Now he gets stars — Matt Damon and Jodie Foster play ball with District 9’s Sharlto Copley, who apparently has spent the years since District 9 P90X-ing — and a big-time budget. The problem is, with a bigger sandlot to play in comes higher expectations. And so it's not a good sign that, despite managing to top the weekend box office, Elysium actually underperformed on District 9’s opening weekend.
Was the ahistorical irreverence of Inglourious Basterds not quite cheeky enough for you? Good news, then: George Clooney would like to take you back to WWII and show you a rollicking good time. The flick is Monuments Men, the latest writer/director/star turn for Georgey, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to his Ocean's Eleven days: Once again, our man has to devilishly charm his way into a crew, and then manipulate that crew into doing the impossible. (Joining old friend Matt Damon in the entourage are some cultishly beloved favorites: John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, and George Clooney's mustache.) The big difference is that, this time, they're not revenge-heisting casinos, but saving priceless works of art from Hitler's minions. And while it's based on real events (as outlined in Robert M. Edsel's The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History) one does get the sense that, in real life, maybe avoiding death at the hands of Nazis wasn't quite as much fun?
In the new teaser for the final season of Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston's Walter White recites Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias." Go bleak or go home, that's the dusty desert way. The new season premieres on August 11, so you have just enough time to get yourself to a mental place where you won't kill yourself because of vast landscapes of sand and rock and themes of mortality, evil, and fuckin' Skyler. Just mainline the pop tunes and think about sea turtles or something. Bank up the giggles. Batten down the ha-has. Cling to "life preserver" Saul Goodman. Maybe drink a lot — that's the best defense against the "lone and level sands" that lie before us.
Hairless hero Matt Damon covers this week's EW in a story about Elysium, Neill Blomkamp's splashily postapocalyptic follow-up to District 9. And while the whole piece isn't online yet, the magazine has been kind enough to break off a crucial little nugget of information. Turns out, if Elysium lives up to the promise of its predecessor and its concept — in the future, Earth is all third-world, and fancy people live glamorous, poor-free lives on the titular satellite community — we have to send a big thank-you to the corrupt police department of Tijuana, Mexico.
You see, inspiration for the flick struck years ago, during Blomkamp's quick visit to TJ with his executive producer while shooting a commercial in San Diego, when Neill was apprehended by some federales for no good reason:
At this point in mid-June, we're about halfway through the summer movie season. Tom Cruise and Will Smith have already come and gone, their box office farts noiselessly absorbed into the winds of the blockbuster hurricanes that blew past them. Iron Man 3 and Fast & Furious 6 have blown up a collective $600 million worth of shit in America. Star Trek Into Darkness finally opened its mystery box, revealing the Wrath of Khan DVD and pair of yellowing rubber Vulcan ears squirreled away inside. Superman arrives today to die for Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson's sins. So what's left to look forward to?
While Emily is in space for the week visiting Leonardo DiCaprio on his voyage to the stars, Tess and Molly hold down the Hoodies homefront. Topics on the table include Behind The Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh's incredible Liberace biopic for HBO, which thrilled us with outrageous Vegas schmaltz, genuine emotion, Matt Damon's stank face, a tender Michael Douglas in a variety of rhinestone capes, and the world's best supporting cast of character actors. Also up for discussion; the sudden proliferation of Room 237-style Mad Men conspiracy theories. Is perennial coffee-offerer Bob Benson evil or just misunderstood? Plus speculation on Leonardo's cosmic journey, his transformation into Jack Nicholson, and whether letting a fan on your rocket will just lead to Misery in space.
When a week of constant moviegoing fails to rouse either unanimity or contentious division, the world's film press gets a little antsy. Where is The Movie? You know, the one that will bring us to tears or to war. Where's the movie that incites peals of laughter, intentional or otherwise? Where on earth are the Oscar-caliber, midmovie storm-outs? The applause has been tepid. The boos have been virtually nonexistent. No one seems willing to kill for anything. No one has any idea what the Steven Spielberg jury will or should do.
That sense changed this morning with the unveiling of Steven Soderbergh's Liberace movie Behind the Candelabra. When the film ended, the house applauded Soderbergh's name and cheered for Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. The song that sends you floating up the aisle and through the exits is Douglas doing "The Impossible Dream" as Liberace. It's a strangely moving moment in exactly the same way that the film itself is strangely moving: It's determined to see beyond the obvious kitsch of Liberace to find something close to the man.
Summer is always an endurance contest: week after week of Movies You Have to See. Once upon a time the season was four months, like actual summer. But climate change has managed to monkey with the Hollywood release schedule. Now summer starts whenever a studio says it does; last week Universal called summer first. So the season pretty much began in the middle of April, with Oblivion, which delivers Tom Cruise as the last man on Earth. The movie industry is hoping you like the end of the world. It's the source of the season's other endurance contest: seemingly endless months of planetary devastation, alien invasion, and surviving. Armageddon is the new Avengers.
Maybe it's foolish to wonder whether the bombing of the Boston Marathon and the subsequent citywide hunt for the perpetrators wasn't summer movie enough. Maybe this should have been the summer Mark Wahlberg partied with the vulgar teddy bear. We are strong, however. Absentminded, too. So if Brad Pitt wants to race around the globe in the name of stopping a zombie pandemic, we might be helpless not to watch. But there's something going on when even the comedies are horning in on that action. I saw the poster for This Is the End, with the faces of all those funny people — Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jay Baruchel — and assumed it was about a bunch of man-children graduating from night school or getting drunk at a wedding or something. It might still be about that. But it's also about how a disaster has hit Los Angeles and left them stuck with each other. I'm going to go ahead and predict that Robinson dies first.
Well, this is nuts: THR is reporting the United States attorney in Manhattan has brought charges against 34 individuals tied up in Russian-American criminal organizations that partly facilitated secret gambling rooms catering to big Hollywood names like Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio. Teddy KGB lives!
If some of this sounds familiar, that's because details of the operations were partially revealed in 2011, when hedge fund manager Bradley Ruderman was arrested after losing $25 million of his clients' money — much of it, he alleged, lost playing high-stakes poker with fancy celebs in these secret backroom games. (Afterward, a trustee attempted to recoup the losses via some of the stars Ruderman lost big hands to, namely Tobey freakin' Maguire.) Now, the legal ax is falling on those who set up the games.
Four years ago, director Neill Blomkamp, then not yet 30, came out of nowhere (well, technically, "came out of South Africa") to drop District 9, a modestly budgeted sci-fi flick that somehow managed to be simultaneously sharp and funny and super sad. Sensibly, Hollywood came a-calling, with their standard Would you like millions and millions of dollars to make a movie that must make millions and millions and millions of dollars more? offer. Blomkamp sacked up, said yes, and now here comes Elysium.