You’re a good man, Jon Stewart

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Watching the news is a bummer. Watching Jon Stewart’s version of the news, luckily, makes everything better. He’s been on a roll for the past two weeks about the scandal over Anthony Weiner, showing that, for a comedian, the hilarity of your material trumps the survival of your friendships any day of the week.

The only bummer about watching The Daily Show is that I see many more clips of Fox News than I would normally choose (I would normally choose to avoid Fox like the plague of inanity that it is). The point of showing these clips though is to destroy Fox anchors with their own hypocrisy, which Stewart does brilliantly. And every once in a while I’m glad to know the name Glenn Beck if only to understand how brilliant Jon Stewart is when he decides to parody Beck’s strange logic:

Also, Jon’s the best host the Oscars have ever seen:

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Oscar fashion 2011

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Ladies in red: Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Hudson

The best dressed women at the Oscars this year were not all those 20-somethings who took “Red Carpet” literally. Helen Mirren put her young peers to shame in Vivienne Westwood Couture, while Hailee Steinfeld was adorable and age-appropriate in Marchesa. These wonderful actresses showed that you don’t have to bare all to be beautiful. Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway was a one-woman fashion show, highlighting this year’s best and worst trends (was that one dress made out of blue vinyl?)

Helen Mirren, the queen

Hailee Steinfeld, the princess

Anne Hathaway, the indecisive host

 

Oscar watch 2011: Best Picture

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The Atlantic’s Benjamin Mercer weighs in on the Best Picture nominees, ranking them from his favorite (The Fighter) to least favorite (127 Hours).

Meanwhile, Nerve ranks all 82 Best Picture winners from worst (Crash) to best (The Godfather II).

Which was your favorite film of the nominees this year?

Natalie Portman: best actress?

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I’m not the only one guessing that Ms. Portman will be going home with the Oscar this Sunday. Following is the opinion of Nate Silver, writer for the NYTimes’s Carpetbagger:

Best ActressAnnette Bening won the Golden Globe for her role as Nic in “The Kids Are All Right”, but Natalie Portman has won the majority of awards and the Academy tends to prefer serious roles to comedic ones when the choice is otherwise close. Plus, everyone seems either to have loved “The Black Swan” or thought it so terrible that Ms. Portman deserves some empathy for having competently played such a ridiculous character (guess which group I’m in?). A small factor helping Ms. Bening is that she has twice been nominated before without winning (for “American Beauty” and “Being Julia”), but this is Ms. Portman’s award to lose.”

Natalie has been working as an actress for far longer than most of us probably realize. Here is her audition at 10 years of age:

And from a few years ago, she discusses, among other things, her early days of getting into acting:

Great Oscar speeches

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Let’s face it, the Oscars can get pretty boring. We watch for the dresses, we watch for the opening monologue, we may watch this year to see what James Franco and Anne Hathaway have up their sleeves, but we never watch to hear one more long list of names we don’t recognize (though, of course, those who get named must be ecstatic beyond belief). Luckily, some speeches are a little more interesting than just names. First is a compilation of excerpts from memorable speeches, and underneath are some of my personal favorites.

I love Jon Stewart, I loved him as an Oscar host, but perhaps I never loved him as much as when he brought out Marketa Irglova (about 1:30 in the clip) to properly accept her award in 2008 for Best Song. She ended up giving the best speech of the night.

Denzel Washington wins Best Actor and gives a shout-out to Poitier, who was awarded an Oscar the same night:

Though Russell Crowe may be neither short nor sweet, his speech was:

On the flip side, when Adrian Brody won Best Actor for The Pianist, his speech lasted much longer than the time he was allotted (he tells the music to “cut it out, I only get one shot at this”) but so much of it is great.

How to be a Hollywood actress

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What you’ll need: A pretty face, a pretty face

Songlist: Hollywood Freaks by Beck, Paparazzi by Lady Gaga

Further Reading: True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet by Lola Douglas

Sam, Roberta, Teeny, Chrissie

After the age of about seven, slumber parties were the only acceptable choice among my friends for a birthday celebration. Every slumber party was a variation on a theme, but all had to include the same three elements: cake, truth-or-dare, and the movie “Now and Then.”

This movie, a precursor to Sex and the City’s four-women-four-personalities formula, follows a group of friends over the course of one summer as they learn about their town’s secrets, deal with family issues, form deeper bonds, and generally Come of Age. I identified with Sam, the narrator who grows up to become an author, as I assumed every one of my friends did. She’s the main character after all, and she wants to be a writer. Only later in life (read: college) did I learn that some of my friends identified more with Chrissie, the sheltered redhead, some with Roberta, the tough tomboy, and some with Teeny, the Hollywood hopeful.

In fact, I did identify with Teeny in one scene, in which she practices an Oscar acceptance speech in front of a mirror. My mirror had served that very purpose many times over. For as much as I assumed we all identified with Sam, I also thought I couldn’t be the only one who wanted to wanted to be a Hollywood star. It’s one of those careers that is visible to American children from a very young age, along with teachers and doctors and whatever their parents do for a living. HR representatives and administrative assistants just don’t get the same amount of child-related publicity.

Movie stars have reached an absurd level of celebrity in the modern day. Many are paid outrageous sums for a job that not all of them can even do well (I’m looking at you, Kristen Stewart). I remember reading a book set in the late 1800s in which the narrator is embarrassed that her parents are actors–she doesn’t want any of her friends to find out. I was confused by this, at age 8, and asked my mom if there was some typo in the book. Surely the narrator wouldn’t be embarrassed? My mom explained then that actors had been disreputable for a long time, as they were seen to be untrustworthy. Their job, after all, is to put on a disguise and escape from reality.

We are only too glad, now, to escape reality with them. The film industry rakes in billions in suffering economies. While the films themselves are escapes from reality, we have also become more and more intensely focused on the real lives of our Hollywood idols. This strange dynamic leads to magazine features like “They’re just like us!” in US Weekly which shows Angelina Jolie at Target, as though movie stars don’t need to buy toothpaste, and as though we should care that they do.

For as long as I’ve been alive, the Hollywood lifestyle has been the epitome of glamour–who wouldn’t want such a life? But in this age of incessant paparazzi we ask our stars to navigate that fine line of extravagance and reality so that we can at once idolize them and relate to them. No wonder so many young Hollywood actresses get confused–they find projected on to their existence unfulfillable expectations, and either believe they deserve this attention and cling to it or get freaked out and try to escape it, which they can only do by escaping themselves.

"My fiance is a good actor because he said he didn't want to sleep with me in Black Swan but he totally wants to sleep with me! HA!"

Sadly, we seem to delight in a young actress’s fall. Once they show that they are not worthy of our idolatry–by stealing jewelry, by getting caught with coke, by being featured in a sex tape–we find it fitting that they self-destruct. There’s a public-stoning aspect to Lindsay Lohan’s inability to turn her life around or Britney Spears’s meltdown of a few years ago (yes, she’s a movie star–have you heard of Crossroads?!?) Our attitude toward these women is troubling; our desire for them is so great we wish nothing less than to consume them. Consume them we do, and spit them out when the taste has gone sour. It makes me worry for all those Teenies, those girls who will practice their Oscar speeches in the mirror this Sunday night after watching Natalie Portman win for Best Actress. They’ll watch her win (hopefully she’ll refrain from making some awkward comment about her pregnancy again in her speech) and think, That will be me someday.