Friday, December 12, 2008

When it comes to comedy, the Golden Globes get a whole lot right

Since it's all about comedy here today, I was initially very happy to see that very-funny-lady Lauren Graham is finally coming back to primetime TV (and only seven years after "Gilmore Girls" left the air, what the hell's up with that?) Once I found out what her show was going to be, however, most of my excitement quickly disappeared.

I'm not sure when this would ever try and make the air, but ABC has given a production commitment to a new comedy which would star Graham as a self-help guru who teaches women how to live a stress-free life, but struggles to follow her own advice when her boyfriend dumps her. Just in case that doesn't sound "meh" enough for you, this comes from "Will and Grace" writer Alex Herschlag, so even if we don't get real laughs there should at least be a laugh track in stitches.

However, if you had told me that a show about a single mom and her teenage daughter would be my favorite thing on all of TV for six years or so (let's just forget the final season), I never would have believed you, so I'll at least give this one a chance for Lauren Graham alone if it indeed ever makes it onto the air.

But, like I said, it's all about comedy here today, thanks to the Golden Globes, which will be handed out Jan. 11 on NBC. Though I really wish they wouldn't lump musicals and comedies together in the same together, it's enough to get me to tune in for some of the broadcast that they bother to recognize comedy at all, and this year's they've tapped some real winners in the comedic actress and actor categories.

Starting with the Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical, I was very happy to see they recognized two of my favorite flicks of the year, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and - surprisingly - "In Bruges." Woody Allen's flick is just lighter than air and a ton of fun, and "In Bruges," despite it's truly head-scratching WTF ending, contains the funniest dialogue of the year and great performances from Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes and most of all the fantastic Brendan Gleeson. I would have liked to have seen "Tropic Thunder" and, even more, Peter Sollett's seriously satisfying "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" make the cut, but some good choices all the same.

But, with this being a musical/comedy category and the roster being rounded out by "Burn After Reading," "Happy-Go-Lucky" (which I can't wait to see at the end of the year in NYC) and "Mamma Mia!", I'd have to imagine the award will go to the only musical on the list. Sheesh.

And it was great to see the love for Woody's thoroughly fun flick continue in the best actress/actor comedy/musical lists. Rebecca Hall carried the movie as Vicky, and she's landed a well-deserved best actress/comedy nomination up against some real heavyweights: Sally Hawkins in "Happy-Go-Unlucky", Frances McDormand in "Burn After Reading", Meryl Streep in "Mamma Mia!" and Emma Thompson in "Last Chance Harvey." If I were a betting man, which I no longer am, I'd say it will come down to Streep and Hawkins, with Hawkins pulling an upset.

Also from "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," Javier Bardem gets a nod in the best actor comedy/musical category for his portrayal of the Lothario Juan Antonio, and he's up against easily some of the best comedic performances of 2008 (and one I haven't seen yet): Both Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson for "In Bruges", Dustin Hoffman for "Last Chance Harvey" and, in the real surprise, James Franco for "Pineapple Express." As much as I love the guys from "In Bruges," I'd give my vote to Franco's portrayal of the thoughtful stoner, but put my money on Hoffman.

Comedy shines through in the supporting categories too, if not as bright. Since I'm determined to mention "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" in every paragraph of this post, and perhaps convince anyone who hasn't done so already to watch it when it finally hits DVD, I have to add that the best thing of all about it was Penelope Cruz's manic turn as Juan Antonio's estranged wife, the thoroughly crazy Maria Elena. She's at her best in her natural Spanish, and here it just comes flying fast and almost always very funny.

I actually think she might win this one, in which she's up against Amy Adams and Viola Davis for "Doubt", Marisa Tomei for "The Wrestler" and Kate Winslet for "The Reader." Though my heart's with Cruz, I'd put my money in a very close vote on Tomei.

(As the final word on Woody Allen, I'll just add that he's returning to New York City this year with grumpy and very funny old dude Larry David as his leading man in "Whatever Works." That should just be a treat.)

And, finally, in the supporting actor category they've tapped what for me was the best comedic performance of 2008, Robert Downey Jr.'s turn in "Tropic Thunder." Even if you somehow haven't seen the movie yet, you've surely seen the photos of him in black face to play actor-extraordinaire Kirk Lazarus. A gimmick, sure, but along with Brandon T. Jackson as Alpa Chino (yes, that's right) he gets all the movies best lines and just makes the most of them, especially in the flawlessly offensive "full retard" speech.

His competition in the supporting actor category includes another turn in "Tropic Thunder," Tom Cruise's seriously overrated drop-in as movie mogul Les Grossman, plus Ralph Fiennes in "The Duchess", Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" and the late Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight." I have to think Ledger will rightly take this one, as he will on Oscar night too.

As a final word about supporting actors and comedy, the globes snubbed one other performance that just combined the two perfectly, Brad Pitt's turn as Rusty in "Burn After Reading." The movie was only good at best, but he was a dimwitted delight to watch.

And speaking of Pitt, I'll leave you with this photo from the set of Quentin Tarantino's World War II flick "Inglorious Basterds." Though he looks more like someone you might find standing on the corner in a trench coat, he's apparently the ring leader of the "Basterds," who will also rather incredibly include B.J. Novak of "The Office" and Samm Levine, a k a Neal Schweiber from "Freaks and Geeks." Peace out.