Sorry, everyone, but Tuesday night the only thing you will be allowed to watch on television is the results of the presidential election as they slowly roll in from across this great nation of ours. Yes, that means field reporting, concession speeches, red and blue states on a big old poster behind the anchor desk, and pundits turning red in their faces when the races don't go their way.
Even if you can't tell the difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and a donkey and an elephant fighting over pizza and burritos, you're going to have to watch something. But what? Here are all your major choices, broken down by what to expect and what is the best for you. If you're going to be stuck with journalists, you might as well find some that you like.
Talent: Diane Sawyer, George (copy, paste) Stephanopoulos, Barbara Walters, and Katie Couric
Pros: Sawyer and Stephanopoulos have both actually worked in the White House, so that is some real K Street cred right there. With Walters and Kouric they'll have a nice balance of hard and soft news. Also, they have a lot of female reporters. It's almost as if they had a binder, and it was full of women, and that's who they put on the show.
Cons: Walters and Kouric have devolved into daytime chatterers. They might not be able to deliver the gravitas an occasion like this merits. And seriously, can't we just put Barbara Walters on Social Security already and make her give up a place at the anchor desk? Oh, wait, not if Mitt Romney wins and there is no more Social Security. Never mind.
Watch This If...: You think The View is hard-hitting journalism.
Talent: Scott Pelley, Bob Schieffer, Norah O'Donnell, John Dickerson
Pros: Bob Schieffer moderated one of the debates, so he might have some insights. The network will be using virtual reality models to display the election results. I don't know what that means, but "virtual reality" always sounds like the future.
Cons: What is a Scott Pelley? Who are these people?
Watch This If...: You are old and can't find NCIS.
Talent: Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, Savannah Guthrie, Andrea Mitchell, Tamron Hall
Pros: Everyone will be reporting from a place called Democracy Plaza, which sounds like what the inside of a voting booth should be like. Either that or a politics-themed restaurant in Times Square. There will be a lot of really deep voices, so your dog won't be able to hear a thing. It's also the only major network to bring back a returning anchor, so thanks, Brokaw. Oh, and have you seen Brian Williams on 30 Rock? He brings the funny.
Cons: Tamron Hall will be reporting from the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. We are already embarrassed for her. Also, no one likes Savannah Guthrie (especially Ann Curry).
Watch This If...: You want to be like the cast of Girls.
Talent: Bill O'Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, Brit Hume, Chris Wallace, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove
Pros: If Mitt Romney loses, they'll freak out so bad it will look like a million nervous breakdowns at once.They're the only ones to have a former candidate in the newsroom.
Cons: That candidate is Sarah Palin. Also, Karl Rove, a lugey of human phlegm that came to life, will share his evil ways. That could be insightful but is also like making out with Emperor Palpatine. And, just like MSNBC, this broadcast has a political bias. Unlike MSNBC, they're not bothered by those little things called facts.
Watch This If...: You hate truth, liberty, and the American way.
Talent: Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Candy Crowley, Erin Burnett, Paul Begala, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Ari Fleischer, Margaret Hoover, Van Jones, Roland Martin and Ana Navarro. Is there anyone they didn't hire?
Pros: Since it's a news network, you can watch it all darn day so you can get all the sweet political news you need to stay alive. Also, it tries to be fair and balanced, which is nice. You never know when Cooper is going to lapse into a fit of the giggles and Begala and Carville are the funniest talking heads in all of punditville.
Cons: Who wants their news balanced? Tell me what to think, news! I'm stupid and need some opinions. Also, remember last election when Wolf Blitzer talked to a hologram. Yeah, that's gone. I already miss it.
Watch This If...: Like Anderson, you'd rather be watching Real Housewives.
Talent: Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Rev. Al Sharpton, Lawrence O'Donnell, Ed Schultz, Steve Schmidt
Pros: If there was ever a pro, it's Rev. Al Sharpton. If Obama wins, he'll go crazy. If Romney wins, he'll go double crazy. Stay tuned! Also, Matthews will yell and Maddow will say lots of smart and vaguely mean things that are totally right.
Cons: There doesn't seem to be any virtual reality, holograms, reincarnated robots of William Taft, or anything. Where are the bells and whistles?
Watch This If...: You wear glasses.
Pros: Well, it's unfiltered, unbiased coverage of the democratic process.
Cons: That sounds more dry and boring than a dump truck full of Shredded Wheat.
Watch This If...: You hate fun.
Talent: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert
Pros: Screw taping, these guys are going live! That means the funny is going to be fast, furious, and possibly NSFW (damn those seven-second delays). Also, Colbert's half hour is called Election 2012: A Nation Votes, Ohio Decides; The Re-Presidenting of America: Who Will Replace Obama? ‘012!. Yup, I'd watch that. Oh, and he'll have Andrew Sullivan too.
Cons: Their coverage starts at 11 PM, so you have nothing to watch until then. But, then again, if you have a life outside of watching boring political reporting on TV, then that is actually a pro. They each only get 30 minutes. Boo!
Watch This If...: You think The Onion is real.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Getty Images (2), Comedy Central]
MemElection 2012: What if Memes Chose The President?
Why We Can't Peg President Obama's Pop Culture Persona
Elephants Vs. Donkeys: The Pop Culture Election
David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
License to Wed is typically predictable as well as eye-roll producing: Ben Murphy (John Krasinski) proposes to the girl of his dreams Sadie Jones (Mandy Moore) and the two of them plan to live happily ever after. That is until they meet Reverend Frank (Robin Williams) the head cleric at Sadie’s family church. He’ll marry them as requested so long as they pass his patented “foolproof” marriage-prep course. Consisting of outrageous classes outlandish homework assignments and some outright invasion of privacy you’re not sure if Rev. Frank has been asked to ruin their engagement or if he’s just a sociopath. Needless to say Ben and Sadie’s relationship is put through the ringer to the point of seemingly no return. But of course this is a rom-com—and all things sweetness and light shall prevail. See? There go the eyes. Williams must have said yes right away to License to Wed. It’s a chance for him to play his zealous preacher a personality we’ve seen many times in his stand-up routines (“And you shall be HEA-A-LED!”). Although Rev. Frank is a certainly a toned-down version who also has a wise twinkle in his eye there is still plenty of Williams wackiness to go around--which is probably why everyone else signed on. Making a comedy with Robin Williams has got to be one of the more hilarious ways to spend three months on a set. It’s just too bad they are all stuck in such a so-so comedy especially The Office’s Krasinski. He's so much better than the milquetoasty groom-to-be he has to play starring with the oh-so-bland Moore and excluding about as much chemistry as two test tubes. There’s no The Office’s Pam-Jim connection here. But Krasinski is just starting out his movie career and I would hope chalk License to Wed up as a learning experience. Speaking of The Office just about everyone save for Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson makes a cameo appearance. And then there’s Josh Flitter as Rev. Frank’s lackey. He’s the elfish kid from Nancy Drew and The Greatest Game Ever Played who is endlessly playing the wiseacre and mischievous sidekick. Wonder how he’ll turn out when he’s older? License to Wed is familiar territory for director Ken Kwapis best known for helming other light and frothy fare such as Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Beautician and the Beast (bet he wishes that last credit would go away). Without blinking an eye Kwapis simply wades right into the bubblegum that is License to Wed pointing and shooting his camera at his star player Robin Williams. But even someone as talented as Williams at comedy needs some kind of guidance once in a while no? Apparently Kwapis—and the bevy of writers who took a stab at the screenplay--doesn’t think so. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with License; it just doesn't make a lasting impression. Besides the outtakes which I already mentioned the only other part worth mentioning is when the fake robot babies which Ben and Sadie are forced to take care of shoot fake snot/goo out of their noses. Good times.
More than 100 celebrities, including Tony Shalhoub, Martin Sheen, Kim Basinger, Helen Hunt and Susan Sarandon, have signed a letter asking President Bush to avoid military action against Iraq, the Associated Press reports. The missive states that a war would "increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks, damage the economy and undermine our moral standing in the world." Martin Sheen, who plays the president on the hit NBC show The West Wing, believes Bush wants settle a personal score with Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. "I think he'd like to hand his father Saddam Hussein's head and win his approval for what happened after the Gulf War," Sheen told AP. "That's my own personal opinion--I don't know if that's true. I hope it's not, but I suspect it is."
Pamela Anderson and ex-husband Tommy Lee won their long-standing court battle against a porn company that sold a tape of the couple having sex over the Internet. The lawsuit for copyright infringement and invasion of privacy was initially thrown out of court because the couple had apparently signed away the rights to the so-called "honeymoon" tape, Reuters reports. An appeals court, however, overturned the decision. Anderson and Lee will receive $740,000 each.
Actor Lorenzo Lamas and estranged wife Shauna Sand have agreed to go through their divorce proceedings amicably and share custody of their three children. According to Reuters, Lamas had originally filed a restraining order against Sand, claiming she began "acting out violently" when he asked for a divorce, but has since revoked the order.
Variety reports My Big Fat Greek Wedding star Nia Vardalos will appear before the camera again in April in a new buddy comedy, Connie and Carla, for Universal. Vardalos also wrote the script but plot details were not available.
Comedian/actor Orlando Jones (Evolution, The Replacements) is going to head up his own late-night talk/variety show for F/X. The show will feature celebrity guests, variety sketches and "a lot of comedy," Jones' manager told The Hollywood Reporter.
The 75-minute fourth-season finale to HBO's The Sopranos brought in a whopping 12.5 million viewers Sunday night, making it the second-most-watched show in HBO history, Variety reports. The network's most-watched show was The Sopranos' fourth season opener in September, which drew in 13.4 million viewers.
According to the official coroner's report released Wednesday, The Who bassist John Entwistle died from a cocaine overdose that stopped his heart, AP reports. Entwistle, 57, was found dead in his Las Vegas hotel room June 27.
U2 lead singer Bono is continuing his altruistic endeavors for third world countries. Along with Sen. Bill Frist and Rev. Franklin Graham, he will assist in getting Christmas gifts to HIV positive children in Africa. According to the AP, the project is part of Operation Christmas Child, a relief effort headed by Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham.