Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It Takes A Diva To Suck This Hard.


When actors play musicians in movies, the results are often spellbinding. Take Joaquin Pheonix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, Angela Basset as Tina Turner in What's Love Got To Do With It, and Jenna Maroney as Jackie Jormp-Jomp AKA Janis Joplin, which we can only assume would have been amazing if it weren't just a storyline on 30 Rock. And that's just the ones based on real people. Jeff Bridges just won an Oscar playing a country music star named Bad Blake. Terence Howard was awesome as a fictional rapper in Hustle & Flow. Gwyneth Paltrow's upcoming role in Country Strong could land her at the top of the charts and on the red carpet come Oscar season. Almost Famous...Amadeus...Ray...the list goes on and on.

You know what's not spellbinding? When Hollywood tries to reverse that winning formula and lets musicians pretend to be actors. I call to the stand Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and now Christina Aguilera, along with every other musician who thought looking convincingly-pure-yet-secretly-horny in a music video meant they could carry a movie. I'm looking at you, Madonna in Swept Away! And now I'm looking away, because it hurts.

Are there exceptions? Sure. To the surprise of many, Justin Timberlake has proven worth his salt as an actor - witness him as the creator of Napster in David Fincher's upcoming "Facebook movie" The Social Network. Bjork powered through the notoriously difficult Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark, her first film role (and last, she has vowed). And Eminem made it all the way through the Academy Awards without committing a hate crime when he was nominated for 8 Mile's "Lose Yourself," a film in which he capably portrayed a young white rapper from Detroit. Hmm.

But for every Jennifer Hudson, there's a Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini, who weren't even convincing as characters named Justin and Kelly in From Justin to Kelly. (Lucky for them, they happened to find a script in which the characters had their same first names. What are the odds? Imagine how much worse it would have been had they not played themselves? World-endingly bad, I'd guess.) In fact, musicians fail at playing themselves surprisingly often. Mariah Carey was more convincing as a social worker with a mustache in Precious than she was as a pop diva in Glitter (never mind that both movies sound like her pre-Mimi album titles). And it's been awhile since I saw David Bowie as a drugged-out space oddity in Labyrinth (that counts as playing himself, right?), but all I remember is a giant codpiece, which probably isn't a good sign.

Despite these past horrors, young musicians are still neglecting to brush up on their Meisner technique, judging by the latest crop testing their acting chops by playing characters very similar to themselves - and still failing. Naturally, I avoided seeing Valentine's Day because I don't hate myself and did not wish for my penis to fall off, but a friend turned me on to the jaw-droppingly-atrocious acting by Taylor Swift in this "romantic" "comedy." This clip begs the question: is this improv? Did she know the camera was rolling? Was this honestly the best take? Or somehow, possibly the only take? Is Jennifer Garner supposed to act that uncomfortable, or is she as horrified by Taylor Swift's appearance in this movie as I am?

I present Exhibit A, to make of what you will:

How did this happen? I know Ms. Swift is considered very down-to-earth and relatable because she prefers sneakers to high heels and sits in bleachers, but this girl could not act her way out of a paper bag. If both she and a paper bag were up against each other for an Oscar, the paper bag would win, hands-down. If only Kanye would appear in this movie and drag Taylor out of it! I won't comment on whether or not she deserved that Video Music award, but she sure as hell didn't deserve to be cast in this movie. Not when there are plenty of other talented actresses, paper bags, and house flies out there who could have brought more depth and believability to the role of Completely Ordinary Girl. You can wear T-shirts all you want, Taylor, but you have blown your cover.

Faring only marginally better is Miley Cyrus in The Last Song, a role that was written for her by Nicholas Sparks. Reportedly she wished to stretch beyond the limitations of playing a musician on a Disney sitcom, so guess what! She plays a musician. But on a bigger screen. Oh, and this time, she stubbornly refuses to play the piano anymore because she's mad at her Dad, and is punishing him by declining her admission to Julliard. This means she spends the movie making out with an Australian, saving sea turtles, and trying to solve the mystery of who burned down the local church instead. (No, seriously.)

That's fine by me, I didn't want to hear her sing anyway - but guess whether or not she eventually does sing, and decides to give Julliard a shot after all? She does! And guess whether or not someone dies of cancer? They do! And guess if Miley at one point dons a blond wig and becomes a wacky country superstar? Well, no...but that didn't stop me from laughing at the movie as if it were a sitcom anyway. As Nicholas Sparks heroines go, Ms. Cyrus is no Rachel McAdams or Robin Wright, nor an Amanda Seyfried or Diane Lane. I can't say her acting was truly terrible because there was nothing good in the film to compare it to. The highest compliment I can give her is that she didn't make the movie suck any harder than it was already going to. Sparks has a true gift for making two specific demographics cry: 1) women, and 2) me. But for very different reasons.

Now this Thanksgiving comes the latest offender, and quite possibly the most delicious of them all: Christina Aguilera in Burlesque, which looks something like Chicago meets Showgirls - meets guilty pleasure heaven meets a great big smile on my face. We get not one but two divas-turned-actresses! We also get singing, dancing, and Alan Cumming, officially making this the gayest movie ever made. And yes, I am including gay porn. Sure, maybe it's unfair to judge the movie before it comes out, but something tells me Christina's acting debut will be more Beyonce in Obsessed than Beyonce in Dreamgirls. And that something is the trailer for the movie:

You'll note that "Academy Award-winner" Cher also appears, and probably recall that she, too, got her start as a singer. Does that mean there's hope for this movie? I don't think so. Yes, Cher won an Oscar, but that was a long time ago - way back when she could still move her face. Judging by her big, uncomfortably long moment in this trailer, the Academy will be stopping by Cher's fortress any day now to "repurpose" that Oscar, and I seriously doubt they'll be handing it over to Little Miss "Sex for Breakfast" any time soon, either.

Still, it's about time Aguilera made her acting debut. Fellow Mouseketeers Justin and Britney have been at it for years, and Mandy Moore has all but left her pop persona in the dust after snagging juicy roles in the likes of Saved!, American Dreamz, and Entourage (plus one Nicholas Sparks movie). Better late than never: Burlesque is poised to be Christina Aguilera's Crossroads. Remember that debacle? No? Oh, stop pretending.

Here, let me remind you:

To be fair, it's not Brit-Brit's performance that is so bad as it is the material she has to work with, which is true of so many of these poor divas. Ms. Spears is actually quite the thespian - you may recall her performance as Someone Who's Not Batshit Crazy during the first several years of her career. She had us all convinced then, didn't she? If we only knew.

Anyway. The plot of Burlesque places Christina as a small-town girl - but stop right there! It's already ridiculous. Which small town is she from? Obviously A Divaville, Nebraska? I've bought Ms. Aguilera in a variety of roles, including S&M kitten, Boogie Woogie Bugle Girl, genie in bottle, mud wrestler, third wheel in a ménage à trois with Britney and Madonna, and even the reflection of a cartoon Asian princess in drag. However, I steadfastly refuse to believe that the girl has ever milked a cow, or even looked at one. I have no doubt that Christina will give Burlesque her all, but I am afraid "her all" will not nearly be enough to save this sucker. When Stanley Tucci tells her, "Great enthusiasm, terrible timing" in the trailer, I have a feeling this is really just him giving the songstress a few acting pointers when they didn't know the cameras were rolling. Am I being too hard on Burlesque? Well, any movie with a character named Alice and a "Wonderland" punchline deserves all the mockery I can muster, if you ask me.

There's virtually no way Burlesque can be good. Thus one can only hope it lives up to its ludicrous trailer and is as much of a jumbled, awkward mess as Christina's album Bionic, which dropped earlier this year with a big, fat THUD. I sure hope the director found room for "Vanity" amongst the musical numbers! In fact, I'd forgive Christina all of Bionic if the album's worst tracks (and there are plenty) were written specifically to go along with campy musical numbers in this movie. Cher doing "Bobblehead"? Well, a boy can dream.

Regardless, I know exactly what I'll be thankful for this November - a big, fat turkey like Burlesque.

Gobble gobble,



  1. hahah i loved it!

  2. Can you clarify for me exactly what you mean by "more Beyonce in Obsessed than Beyonce in Dreamgirls"? I thought she was fabulous in both, but only one of them made me scream "YES! YES! KILL THE WHITE BITCH!" at the screen in the theater. Is that what I can expect from Burlesque, as well?

  3. I would not blame anyone for shouting that in any of Cher's scenes, so yes. That is what I meant.

  4. Hey, put me in a movie where I get to make out with an Australian like that and I will gladly let you be critical of MY acting. :)

    By the way, these articles of yours on "Said Panties" are classics. Keep them coming.

  5. Thanks!

    And you better BELIEVE I would judge you!