Sunday, March 29, 2015

Discussing Movies vs TV with Adam Spector Part I

My friend Adam Spector is the head of DC Film Society's Discussion Group Cinema Lounge that meets once a month at the Barnes and Noble by Metro Center in DC. He also keeps a column called Adam's Rib.

I recently had a cross-blogging project with Adam about the state of films verse TV in six parts. The first two parts of the post are listed here:

OK -- Adam, I've enjoyed discussing movies with you this past year but I have to also confess that while I love to discuss film as much as ever, I'm not really watching a lot of films. While I eventually managed to watch 8 of the 9 Oscar-nominated films by Oscar night this past year, I doubt I'm on pace to equal the 24 films I saw last year, as I have only seen 8 films this year [Ed. note: I managed to squeeze in 25 films by Oscar night including 4 of 8 nominees]. What's more: I really don't mind. I've seen most of the films I've wanted to see and there are only a handful of films that have caught my interest. Last time I checked the redbox, there seemed to be mostly sequels, blockbuster films (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Maze Runner) based on source material I'm unfamiliar with, uninspired comedies (Tammy, Jingle all the Way 2) and animated films.

What I'm pouring my efforts into instead is TV because let's face it: This is the Golden Age of TV and whether it's a procedural, a serialized drama, or a multi-layered comedy TV has so much to offer these days. And I'm not the only one who thinks so: Oscar-winners like Halle Berry (Extant), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Dustin Hoffman (Luck), Jon Voigt (Ray Donovan) Octavia Spencer (Red Band Society), Francis McDormand (Olive Kitteridge) and Jane Fonda (Netflix's upcoming series) as well as directors like Frank Darabont (Walking Dead), David Fincher (House of Cards), Steven Soderbergh (The Knick), Michael Apted (Masters of Sex) and Barry Sonnenfeld (Pushing Daisies) are all flocking to TV in droves. Conversely, some of TV's most iconic show runners a decade ago--J.J. Abrams, Joss Whedon, and Seth MacFarlane, for example-- are all wildly successful on the big screen.

As for the advantages of movies, I love the idea of leaving my home to support and experience the arts and those new seats are really comfortable but that's about it. My style of viewing has changed. 

In the old days, the only social experience of watching a film was talking about it as you leave the theater, but with TV you can have dialogue with people all around the world while you're watching something (through Twitter), right after the episodes (through week-to-week reviews) or between episodes of a longer arc (on message boards). There's no water cooler discussion like trying to figure out where the plot will take you on a show like "Homeland," "Lost" or "The Bridge."

I'd even argue that the actual form of TV is better. The latest program I started catching on TV is "Silicon Valley" which is the work of Mike Judge of "Office Space", "Idiocracy", and "Extract." His comedic films satirize the absurdities of the American professional sphere with an eye on the razor-thin differences between those in power and the underlings through elaborate plots in which each of these two classes tries to cheat the other. Imagine watching "Office Space" [spoilers ahead] and waiting a week to find out that Michael Bolton's plan to steal pennies off the company backfired or that Milton's frustration over his paycheck would result in the building being burned down. The viewer has time to guess and ruminate at each stage of the story's development.

Granted, TV didn't reach its potential until just recently when shows figured out how to master these long-arcing stories like "24"or "Lost" a decade ago and now there are dozens of shows I can point to in the past 7-8 years alone that I just can't get enough of narrative-wise. In the face of all that, why see a movie?

AS – You may be surprised that I agree with much of what you wrote.   Your insights about the way television has advanced, both in the narrative form and in the talent attached, are on target.  I’d say the start of this change goes all the way back to the 80s with shows such as “Hill Street Blues,” that started telling stories and developing characters over seasons, not just single episodes.  The show that moved television storytelling to another level was “The Sopranos.”  It took the “antihero’ concept from 60s and 70s film and used the time and space that television offered to really explore how this type of person thought and felt.  Everything from “Mad Men” to “Breaking Bad” to “House of Cards” owes “The Sopranos” a great debt.  Television has broken free of many of its historic shackles, such as being beholden to ratings and advertisers, and the idea that every dramatic situation had to be tied up neatly by the end of each episode.  With cable TV, also gone was much of the language, sex and violence censorship, thus providing much more freedom of content.

More recently, television has also shed the time constraint.  With Netflix, viewers of “Orange is the New Black,” “Arrested Development” or “House of Cards” no longer have to wait until next week to see what happens.  This allows for even more innovation in storytelling and character development.   It also gives the audience more control than they have ever had before.   

You noted the actors and directors that have worked in television.  Gone is the idea that television is somehow beneath film talent, that it would only serve as a last resort if a film career is floundering.  Martin Scorsese helped develop “Boardwalk Empire” and is now working with Mick Jagger on an HBO show about the ‘70s rock scene.    The same year that Matthew McConaughey won an Oscar he also starred on “True Detective” for HBO.  Fincher directed "Gone Girl" while still working on “House of Cards.”

Television’s recent success does not portend cinema’s death.  Film’s demise has always been greatly exaggerated.  I remember attending a seminar at the Kennedy Center in the late 90s when a panelist proudly proclaimed that film was dead.  Ever since television first became popular in the 50s, some have been ready to pour dirt on movies.  But movies are still here.

It’s taking nothing away from television to acknowledge that there is still exciting work on the silver screen.  Just look at Richard Linklater’s innovative "Boyhood."  In less than three hours you see a boy grow up.  That would be very difficult to do on television, if only because no network would want to pay development money for a show it wouldn’t see in 12 years.  Another example is "Birdman", where the entire film unfolds as a long jazz riff, with the camera seemingly gliding through a struggling theatrical production.             

Sure, much of what you see at the local multiplex are sequels or franchise films.  First, that doesn’t always mean these are poor quality.  The latest Captain America film took some chances with the story and the casting, and was a successful homage to 70s conspiracy thrillers.  Knock Guardians of the Galaxy all you want, but its irreverent take on superheroes was fun and refreshing. 

Like television, films offer a wide range in content and quality.  Judging movies by their derivative efforts would be like me judging television by its stale sitcoms and mindless “reality” shows.  Sure, if one would only select films based on the box office charts, it would be very uninspiring to say the least.  But if you look at the art house theaters, you can still find plenty of movies that are worth your time.  In the DC area we are very fortunate, with the Landmark theaters here, the Angelika in Fairfax, and the AFI Silver.  We should take advantage of these offerings.

Watching movies and TV shows at home is wonderful.  Much to my wife’s chagrin, I own more than 500 DVDs.  Between Netflix, my DVR and On Demand, I can and do enjoy many quality TV shows.  But there’s still nothing like sitting in a movie theater, having the light go down, and being totally immersed in a film.  No cell phones and no distractions.  Just you and the movie. 

Orrin, you and I have both noted the talent that has worked in TV.  But many of them, including Scorsese, Fincher, McConaughey and Spacey also work in film.  They haven’t focused on one at the expense of the other, and neither should we.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year-End Round-Up: Top 25 TV Characters of 2014

My Annual Top 25 TV Characters of the Year list (last year's list can be found here):

1. Andy Daly as Forrest MacNeil in "Review"-In his tragically misguided (and quite hilarious) quest to push the boundaries of human understanding, Forrest turned himself into the ultimate human punching bag: He got institutionalized, suffered the heartbreak of divorce, developed an addiction to cocaine, committed manslaughter, awkwardly made his way through an orgy, and came to the realization that he might have had pedestrian racist tendencies. On the flipside, he saw space (with the corpse of his late father-in law in tow), enjoyed a brief marriage to Maria Thayer, and rediscovered how important his family was to him. 

"Review" was one of the year's most enjoyable roller coaster rides and Forrest's discombobulation  was disturbing, shocking, cringe-worthy and incredibly fun. Andy Daly, who has carved an admirable career for himself in straight man and supporting roles, has really found his niche here.

Source: HollywoodReporter
2. Richard Jenkins as Henry Kitteridge in "Olive Kitteridge"-With the more downbeat Olive front-and-center, the show’s tone would reach Ingmar Bergman-like levels of depression if not for Richard Jenkins’ kind-hearted Henry acting as a counter balance. Jenkins’ presence here is enormous. The kind and gentle nature of Henry Kitteridge shines through so powerfully, that his absence is acutely felt whenever he's not in the room.

3. Stephen Colbert as Stephen Colbert (with a silent t) in "The Colbert Report"-Colbert's epic cameo-saturated swan song capped off a nine-year run in which he was second to none at the intersection of comedy and politics. Brash and ambiguously oppositional, Colbert used his whip-smart improv ability with chief political and academic figures of the era to produce some of the most memorable, hilarious and insightful interviews of the past decade. Because he was on every night, it was easy to take the Colbert Report for granted, but we can be thankful that Colbert and his prolific team has produced a Fort Knox's worth of comedy gold on reserve.

4. Nick Sandow as Joe Caputo in "Orange is the New Black"-Although he might have morally erred in the series finale with Fig, Caputo stepped up at Litchfield to become a hypothetical source of hope among the administration that Piper (and the audience) thought would never happen. It remains to be seen whether he will be trampled by the system like his predecessor, but for now Caputo is riding high and in a show like Orange is the New Black which tugs at the viewer's emotions, Caputo's ascension and (mostly) noble intentions were cathartic this past season.

5. Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in "Bates Motel"-The mercurial woman whose son will grow up to become the iconic knife-wielding serial killer. In the second season, Norma pulled a "House of Cards" on us and slowly crept her way up the social scene of White Pine Bay. Although we know that Norma will eventually become her son's toy skeleton, the relationship between the two is so interesting to watch because there are only hints of dysfunction underneath that we know will grow.  The unexpected surprise of "Bates Motel" is that "Psycho" was never a character piece and this show is such a slow simmer.

6. Clive Owen as Dr. Thackery, The Knick- Owen's brilliant portrayal is not particularly removed from Hugh Laurie's curmudgeonly doctor on "House" except Thackery's backstory or emotional complications don't get any analysis. What fascinates me about Dr. Thackery is that he's not so much a hero or an anti-hero as he is just a crusty opium addict who happens to be in charge.

7. Chris Parnell voicing Cyril Figgis in "Archer"-Cyril finally developed some backbone in standing up to Archer and briefly ran a Central American country more efficiently than the dictator who came before him. Attorney, accountant, field agent, military strategist, is there anything this guy can't do?

8. Karen Gilliam as Eliza Dooley in "Selfie"-The cancelled-too-soon show had a great pairing at its center in Eliza Dooley and Henry Higgs. Together, the two personified the changing landscape of etiquette in the media age with Dooley and Higgs occupying extreme ends on the spectrum between too much or too little reliance on your cell phone. Naturally, the social media obsessive is the more fun character and Karen Gilliam goes to town with the role. Brushing aside the questionable plot hole of how Eliza managed to amass such a strong twitter following so quickly, Gilliam hits the perfect notes as an aloof millennial with an inflated ego and all the requisite vulnerabilities of a TV romcom lead. She also has some of the best dialogue of any TV character this year.

9. Katja Herbers as Helen in "Manhattan"-I've always felt that "Manhattan" is about outsiders at heart and Helen is no different. She's a woman in a man's club and is (secretly) Dutch, but she mixes that peripheral sense with a swagger that makes her stick out in a good way. She has a no-nonsense demeanor that allows her to cut through the BS (a trait that's useful for a drama set in the repressed '50s) and is unapologetic about her sex life.

10. Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot in "Gotham"-In its first half-season, "Gotham" has had its share of flaws for such an ambitious comic book adaptation, but the show deserves a lot of credit for bringing back a potentially campy character and fleshing him out. Ultimately, you could see Robin Lord Taylor's Penguin fitting in with one Batman's better adaptations. Taylor's performance is rich with nuances from the physical to the tics that slyly hint at a sociopathic mindset.

11. Yael Stone as Morello in "Orange is the New Black"-We came in to the season thinking of Morello as the sweet but impressionable romantic and soon learned that she was Litchfield’s own version of Kathy Bates in Misery. And yet, even though we knew the other side of the story, it was hard to stop seeing her as a sweet well-intentioned character. The show challenges us to take a close look at societal miscreants and reassess whether they really are bad apples to society and Morello’s storyline really fell into the middle of all that with heartbreaking poignancy.

Source: ABC/Bob D'Amico
12. John Cho as Henry Higgs in "Selfie"-John Cho is rapidly climbing up the list of most underrrated TV actors and "Selfie" is another home run for him. As Eliza's other (platonic) half and counterpoint in the culture wars, Cho's Henry Higgs (like Eliza Dooley, he's modeled after a Pygmalion characters) isn't just a straw man for stodgy old luddites who are unable to get with the times. Higgs is a thoughtful man with a critical eye towards the latest app and an old-school sense of etiquette and style. He might even be classified as suave. Cho deserves a lot of praise for breaking the mold of Asian-American stereotypes as well.

13. Jim Jefferies as himself in "Legit"-Jefferies and his sitcom fall under the category of "Goshdarnit, I like this guy!"Jefferies doesn't do much of anything except hang out and fuel the moral depravity of his two roommates but he has an amicable style that wins me over because the show is so tonally congruent with the show and its characters. The show's second season saw Jefferies grapple with death, friendship and love a little more than the first, while still hinting at a slow evolution. 

14. Ramon Franco as Fausto Galvan in "The Bridge"-With his sloppy casual attire and his penchant for buying boats, Fausto Galvan does not conform to the typical image of a mob boss but he's a brilliant tactician and knows how to intimidate an enemy. As a childhood friend of Detective Ruiz, Galvan is also an ever-present reminder of the direction Ruiz's life might have taken in the show's morally ambiguous world. I, for one, enjoyed the show's more Fausto-centric view of Juarez.

15. Mark Feuerstein as Dr. Hank Lawson in "Royal Pains"-Even if "Royal Pains" isn't one of the most respected shows on TV, Hank Lawson deserves praise for being such an uplifting and relevant character. He's just a desperado concierge doctor equipped with a scalpel, lightning-quick diagnosing abilities and the mysterious ability to constantly be around some of the rarest medical emergencies ever recorded. He was my #2 character last year (although I pretty much copied and pasted his entry).


16. Ashley Zukerman as Charlie Isaacs in "Manhattan"-It was partially due to a strong cast of characters that "Manhattan" made its way onto my viewing schedule this year and Charlie Isaacs is the hot-shot alpha male of the bunch with his dashing good lucks, smoking hot wife and (considering this is Los Alomos) his brains. Because my basis of comparison for this show is the 1989 film "Fat Man and Little Boy" and there are inevitable comparisons between Charlie and the John Cusack's character who was heavily colored by 80's conventions, I see Charlie as a rebellious bad boy of sorts. Charlie was also an interesting character this season in that his character seemed destined for adultery and that whole plotline was sidestepped (his marriage fell apart and his wife cheated first) making him, in essence, an individual of "good" character.

17. Annaleigh Ashford as Betty DeMilo in "Masters of Sex"-The practical-minded ex-hooker was a curious foil to Michael Sheen's Dr. Masters last season as he only paid her begruding respect despite his supposed sexual tolerance. Nonetheless, DeMilo dealt with Masters with swift resolve and dangled the use of her brothel as a bargaining chip. In an expanded supporting role this season, DeMilo provided some of the heart-reaching ups and downs as her marraige fell apart while she succumbed to the temptations of Sara Silverman's Helen (Sara Silverman in a 1950's accent certainly would be hard to resist) and showed a touching solidarity with Dr. Masters by continuing to show up for work as his new hire.
18. Olivia Cooke as Emma Decody in "Bates Motel"-The first season left me wanting to see more of Emma Decody's POV. She is quietly drawn to the tumultuous Norman family but it's clear that she exists on the periphery of their trials and tribulations. The show's second season gave us a better glimpse inside Emma's world. It showed us a character who's relatively comfortable in her own skin as a disabled teenager but who's also self-aware of her desire to belong. Her relationship was also one of the sweetest examples of teenage romance on television.

19. Kat Dennings and Beth Behr as Max and Caroline in "2 Broke Girls"-Part of what keeps "2 Broke Girls" among the most comfortable shows on Television is the chemistry between Max Black and Caroline Channing. They're rat-a-tat dilaogue is a stylistic throwback to the days of vaudeville. Caroline lobs the set-up and the acerbic Max hits it out of the ballpark. The humor isn't necessarily the most sophisticated on TV but the chemistry between the two best friends of circumstance is immense.

20. Kristen Schaal voicing Mabel Pines in "Gravity Falls"-Between "Bob's Burgers", "BoJack Horseman" and this (not to mention the countless voiceover work she's doing that I'm not watching), Schaal deserves all the praise she's getting and more as a voice-over actor. She has a unique voice that creates a recognizable comic personality when you hear it (in this case, the overexcited child) and has has shown enough versatility with it to create three memorable and different comic characters. Mabel Pines' never-ending positivity is just infectious on "Gravity Falls" and visually, her sweater designs and stickers are the Easter eggs of the show.

21. Emily Rios as Adriana Mendez in "The Bridge"-Daniel Frye, Adriana's partner-in-crime, occupied a high spot on last year's list and while that entry was a way of honoring the touching Frye/Adriana relationship, I didn't anticipate that Adriana would become so much more fleshed out this year. While the Frye/Adriana pairing was still one of the underrated crime-fighting duos on television, Adriana was an interesting character in her own right. Adriana also gave us one of the dramatic high points as she was victimized by Galvan's goonies to show that no one was really a passive spectator to this conflict. It also helps that I have a soft-spot for reporter characters.

22. Megan Stevenson as AJ Gibbs in "Review"-Stevenson does so much with every facial reaction and stilted smile. The result is a a very mercurial character that makes a very strong impression with very little screentime. With "Review" renewed, the increased presence of AJ Gibbs as sole host of the show is on the top of my anticipation list for this coming year in television. 

23. Aaron Paul voicing Todd in "BoJack Horseman"-In satirizing the empty lives of the Hollywood rich and famous, "BoJack Horseman" is largely about characters going nowhere and repeating the same patterns, and no one is staying still faster or as consistently hilariously as Todd. His massive ADD ensures that nothing will ever get done as long as he's around. Todd also bounces off others with supreme comic ease as evidenced by his teaming up with Quentin Tarantulino to produce a movie that morphed into a bimonthly snack subscription followed by his business partnership with Mr. Peanutbutter that produced some of the most hillariously ridiculous ideas ever to hit animated TV. It is also Todd's childlike need for approval from BoJack that keeps the tone of the show positive.

Source: Yahoo Screen
24. Cecily Strong as The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation with at a Party in "SNL"-As someone who is generally sober in situations where other people are drunk, I know the experience all too well of being around someone who thinks they're the most interesting person in the world in a space where you're both on different planets in terms of how much fun you're having and your definition of interesting conversation. So yes, this character certainly resonates with me on a personal level. A shout-out here to my other Weekend Update favorite: Kate McKinnon's economically depressed Russian version of a Borsch Belt comedian.

Source: NY Post
25. Eliza Coupe as Nina Whitley in "Benched"-Cope is the rare stunningly beautiful actress who can dive into the part of a flawed woman so thoroughly that you actually believe they would have trouble getting a date. Coupe charms her way through the series in a way that makes you forget that Nina Whitley's role has been done before in many screwball comedies before and after her. It is also through Nina Whitley's slow learning curve at adapting to the upside-down world of public defending, that I am learning more about the nuts and bolts of the legal system and its shortcomings than so many boring legal dramas.

Aimee Carrerro as Lucia, The Americans; Alison Pill as Maggie Jordan, The Newsroom; Andre Holland as Dr. Algernon Edwards, The Knick; Barbara Rosenblat as Rosa Cisneros, OitNB; Damien Bichir as Marco Ruiz, The Bridge; David Harewood as Saperstein, Selfie;  Famke Potente as Elanor Nacht, The Bridge; Frances McDormand as Oliver Kitteridge, Oliver Kitteridge; Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein as Toni and Candice, Portlandia; Kate McKinnon as Olga Povlatsky, SNL; Keegan Michael Key as Mark, Playing House; Kimiko Glenn as Brook Soso, OitNB; Leslie Bibb as Dakota, About a Boy;  Minnie Driver as Fiona, About a Boy; Natasha Lyonne as Nikki Lyons, OitNB; Olivia Munn as Sloane Sabbath, The Newsroom; Parvesh Cheena and Hong Chau, Dinesh and Lora, A to Z; Sara Silverman as Helen, Masters of Sex; Zoe Kazan as Betty, Oliver Kitteridge

Here's a list of all shows I watched this year, for reference (that aren't in my Top Ten):
About a Boy (NBC) , Americans (FX), American Dad (TBS), American Horror Story (FX), America's Got Talent (Fox), Awesomes (Hulu), Bad Teacher (CBS), Bad Judge (NBC), Black Box (ABC), Blacklist (NBC), Broad City (Comedy Central), Brooklyn Nine Nine (FOX), Benched (USA), Crazy Ones (CBS), Chicago PD (NBC), Comedy Bang Bang (IFC), Conan (TBS), Colbert Report (Comedy Central), Daily Show (Comedy Central), Deadbeat (Hulu), Family Guy (Fox), Finding Your Roots (PBS), Flash (CW), Fugget About It (Hulu), Gotham (Fox), Glee (Fox), Gravity Falls (Disney), Ground Floor (TV Land), Hannibal (NBC), Houdini (History), Halt and Catch Fire (AMC), House of Cards (Netflix), Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central), Key and Peele (Comedy Central), Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel (NBC), Late Night with Seth Meyers (ABC), Larry King (Hulu), Librarians (TNT), Louie (FX), Marry Me (NBC), Mulaney (Fox), Madam Secretary (CBS), Mindy Project (Fox), Modern Family (ABC), Mother Up! (Hulu), Mysteries at the Museum (History Channel), NCIS: LA (CBS), Newsroom (HBO), New Girl (Fox), Nathan For You (Comedy Central), Playing House (USA), Portlandia (IFC), Red Band Society (Fox), The Strain (FX), Saturday Night Live, Tonight Show (NBC), Turn (AMC), Under the Dome (CBS), Video Game High School (YouTube), Veep (HBO), Vikings (History Channel), The Voice (NBC), Web Therapy (Showtime), The Wil Wheaton Project (SyFy), Welcome to Sweden (NBC)

Additionally, my top 12 TV shows can be found at this year.
They are:
1. Archer, FX
2. The Bridge, FX
3. Orange is the New Black, FX
4. Review, Comedy Central
5. The Knick, Cinemax
6. Manhattan, WGN
7. Olive Kitteridge, HBO
8. Selfie, ABC
9. Late Night with John Oliver, HBO
10. Quick Draw, Hulu
11. Masters of Sex, HBO
12. Silicon Valley, HBO
Runner-Ups: 2 Broke Girls (CBS), A-Z (NBC), Bates Motel (A&E), Bojack Horseman (Netflix), Crossbones (NBC), Finding Your Roots (PBS),  Legit (FX), Portlandia (IFC), Royal Pains (USA), Suburgatory (ABC)

Additionally, I had the honor of participating in Cory Barker's end-of-the-year round table at TV Surveillance, where I contributed thoughts on the best performances in 2014 on TV, the best new TV show, the worst TV show and the best performances.

I also have just been hired at TV Fanatic and contributed to all their year-end slideshows including best plot twist, most underutilized character, best breakout character, and several more.

In short, I've now analyzed 2014 in TV to death at this point, but being included on Cory Barker's year-end roundtables and TV Fanatic's year-end polls have been a goal of mine for four years so I'm quite pleased. Some people want to build mountains or create great paintings and I just want to watch a lot of TV and discern obscure categories within that medium.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Blast from the Past: Breakout Stars of 2007

Here's a sample of a piece I submitted to a humor website back in 2008 involving the break-out stars of that year:  Casey Affleck, Ellen Page, Seth Rogen, Tilda Swinton, Marie Courtillard, Jonah Hill, Jason Bateman, Shia LeBouf, Michael Cera, Keri Russell, Emile Hirsch and Nikki Blonsky

Jonah Hill:
Before 2007: Jonah Hill was a walking contradiction to the old Hollywood adage that you have to be at least moderately attractive if you want to be a movie star. Despite looking more like an amorphous blob of playdough than Cary Grant, Hill had managed to find work upon arriving to L.A. in small roles starting with bit roles in I Heart Huckabees, Click, and The 40-Year Old Virgin culminating in the Justin Long comedy Accepted, where Hill started to get major screen time as a portly sidekick who's benefit to Justin Long's character is a naive willingness to follow him along on his crazy schemes (think of the Zach-Screech relationship on Saved by the Bell).

In 2007, Hill had a great year playing the portly sidekick designed for comic relief, once again, in Knocked Up  before transitioning to starring in his own film in Superbad. This was not only a major step up for Hill in terms of screen time, but also, in Superbad, he gets to play a character who doesn't completely repulse women. He even gets a love interest and while she didn't respond favorably when he tried to kiss her when he was drunk at a party, she didn't slap him and scream "Ewwwww, get away from me, fatso!" which is what would have previously happened in a scene with a Jonah Hill character. On top of that, Hill managed to score some extra cash and provide comic relief for playing a suck-up assistant in "Evan Almighty."

What does Hill's future look like? Because Hill has had the fortune of appearing in two very funny movies, the public is temporarily forgetting about how he doesn't exactly look like Cary Grant or even Jason Alexander but they are bound to come to their senses eventually. Hill, is playing it smart, however, by working on a screenplay however and the general rule of that in Hollywood is that if you write the screenplay you can cast yourself in it, regardless of how ugly you are, so Hill's career should be able to stay afloat through at least one more movie.

Ellen Page:
Before 2007: This spunky Canadian had her first gig in the Canadian TV series "Pit Pony" (your guess is as good as mine) and dabbled in the Canadian film industry (the Canadian film industry consists of approximately 7 people in Halifax with hand-held cameras looking to fill their spare time since being cut from the club hockey team) before being cast as Shadowcat in X-Men 3. Being somewhere around the 11th most important character in a very, very crowded story, Page
didn't get a whole lot of notice and they probably couldn't even find a seat for her at the premiere. 

2007: Paired up with a screenwriter who matches her spunk, Ellen Page becomes the star of the year's biggest Indie hit "Juno." Critics are won over because, in all honesty, they don't comprehend what the characters are saying and decide to just give the film a good review for fear of looking stupid and Page goes onto win a prestigious Oscar nomination.

What's her future looking like?
Page's biggest obstacle to becoming filthy rich and being in lots of movies is that she seems to be somewhat picky. According to her imdb profile, Page "Considers herself to be a Feminist and tries to steer clear of the 'stereotypical roles for teenage girls' because she finds them to be 'sexist'" which disqualifies her for 98% of what Hollywood has to offer, so unless she wants to make Juno 2 there might not be too much work for her.

Casey Affleck:

Before 2007: Casey was best known as Ben’s little brother. Ben even managed to score Casey apart in Good Will Hunting and gave a shout-out to him in his Oscar acceptance speech.  Casey’s greatest accomplishment aside from sharing a set of parents with Ben has been appearing in the Ocean’s 11 series. If you’re going to respond to this last sentence with, “Huh? I had no idea that Casey Affleck was in the Ocean’s 11 trilogy and I’ve seen all the films,” don’t worry about it. I’m sure Brad Pitt and George Clooney were too busy giving charming and witty interviews and admiring themselves in the mirror to even learn the names of their costars as well. But after 2007, not only will Pitt and Clooney know Affleck’s name but they might even be willing to invite him into their trailers because………

In 2007: Affleck became a movie star. How did he accomplish this? Sheer nepotism. Ben Affleck made his directing debut which he used as a chance to help little brother out with a starring role in Gone Baby Gone. You know, however, that you've made it when someone who isn't related to you casts you in a movie as was the case with The Assassination of Jesse James where Affleck received an oscar nomination.

What's the forecast for Affleck's future? Let's just see that when Ocean's 14 comes around, Pitt, Clooney, and Damon will be carrying Casey's luggage on the film's press tour. In all seriousness, however, Affleck should be able to use his Oscar nomination to land more film roles because in Hollywood, the promotion department always wants to be able to put "Starring Oscar nominee" in front of an actor's name as long as he doesn't make the mistake of dating J-Lo or doing movies with Michael Bay.

Tilda Swinton:
Before 2007: Tilda Swinton was not really anyone. She had a few lines in Adaptation and played the wicked witch (or possibly the good or mild-tempered witch, I didn't see it) in Chronic-what!-cles of Narnia Part I. In 2006, I would have probably had an easier time getting a cab than Tilda Swinton.

In 2007: Tilda Swinton has an Oscar, bitches. Even better, she got out without having to suck up to Paula Abdul or weather verbal abuse from Simon Cowell, like last year's Supporting Actress winner Jennifer Hudson. She did have to effusively compliment George Clooney on the press circuit and do a weird scene in a mirror where she stared at herself while running her finger along the outside of her bra.

What's the forecast for Swinton's future? Swinton will be competing on American Idol in hopes of getting 7th place. No but in all seriousness, Swinton is next appearing in a dramatic movie by the writer of Forest Gump where Brad Pitt ages backwards in time and falls in love with Cate Blanchett who's aging forwards, so at both ends of the timeline, one of them will be a pedophile. Not sure what Swinton's role is but let's hope she's not going to be having to have sex with any old people or babies.

Jason Bateman:
Before 2007:  Bateman was the brother of one of Michael J Fox's sisters on "Family Ties" who broke out in Arrested Development which lasted three seasons because goddamnit, no one else was watching it. Also, Bateman decided to use his newfound fame to give his sister an acting gig on Arrested Development that included his sister trying to make out with him. Weird.

In 2007: Bateman seems to be on track to being a character actor and will just show up to any film as long as they have a craft table whether it's "Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium" or "The Kingdom." His big breakout role was Juno where he acted alongside his Arrested Development son and gave some pretty hilarious interviews. 

What's the forecast for Bateman's future? Bateman will continue his quest to randomly show up in as many films as possible and endlessly talk about Arrested Development's possible return to torture the 6-10 people who watched the show on the first run.