DID YOU READ

Meryl Streep is not a Na’vi.

Meryl Streep is not a Na’vi.  (photo)

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Profiling the directorial debut of “Ghost Whisperer” creator John Gray — who’s financing his directorial debut “White Irish Drinkers” with $600,000 out of his own pocket — The New York Times‘ John Anderson feels it necessary to tell us that “it’s never been a tougher climate for independent film, since they don’t usually feature seven-foot blue-skinned Na’vis or Meryl Streep.” Har. More importantly: when did super-advanced 3D f/x and a sexegenarian acting legend become the same thing?

About two years ago. In accordance with the old studio executive dictum that two of anything is a trend that can be ridden out indefinitely, Streep’s blockbuster summers with “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Mamma Mia!” led Entertainment Weekly to dub her a “box office queen.” Vanity Fair picked up the meme as their January 2010 cover story. The evidence: those two movies, plus “Julie & Julia” and “It’s Complicated.”

Though journalists who need to fill up space are often guilty of cooking up fake trends from anything that happens three or more times, in this case, it’s the studio heads that deserve the blame. The EW article has Sony chief Amy Pascal raving about how Streep let her “sexiness” out in “Adaptation.” More interestingly, Donna Langley — then president of production at Universal, now co-chair — was skeptical that would lead to more female-driven films. “I don’t think one has anything to do with the other,” she said. “It’s a specific Meryl moment. But it’s wonderful to watch.”

01252010_Julie&Julia1.jpgWell, no, it’s not even that. It’s certainly true that Streep is toplining successful films, and that she has something to do with it. But correlation and causation are not the same thing; if they were, we’d be talking not just about those four films, but all the other amazingly successful films she’s made since “Prada.” Ready? “Dark Matter,” “Evening,” “Rendition,” “Lions for Lambs,” “Doubt.” Do you see where I’m going with this?

Now, granted, all of those were tough sells (“Lions for Lambs” is straight-up garbage, in particular), but her hits have all needed a little more help than having her name above the title. “Prada” was an adaptation of a wildfire best-seller done right, timed to ride on the hysteria surrounding “America’s Next Top Model,” “Mamma Mia!” filled the musical void during the summer of 2008 and used ABBA like a club, “Julie & Julia” was a cross-generational biopic, one of whom was really famous, released during the height of the Food Network’s popularity. The only one I’m prepared to concede is “It’s Complicated,” and even there, it was an ensemble rather than a solo vehicle released when there were no other major comedies at Christmas.

This is no knock on Streep, who I’ve particularly enjoyed in her late-period comedienne phase; she’s finally stopped scaring the hell out of me, leaving me more time to have nightmares about Isabelle Huppert. But her success doesn’t really have much to do with audiences having an OMGMERYLSTREEP moment. And certainly no one’s going to confuse her with a Na’vi.

[Photos: “The Devil Wears Prada,” 20th Century Fox, 2006; “Julie & Julia,” Columbia Pictures, 2009.]

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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