20 famous people with very silly names

“Silly” here is not used in the pejorative sense, so much – these names aren’t bad (most of them are actually pretty delightful, and lots of fun to say out loud); they just have a fictional whimsy, they’re etymonyms that sound more like pseudonyms. (Second clarification: the definition of “famous” is very, very flexible.)

Celebrity chef

Glee actor

Benedict CumberbatchSherlock star

Googie WithersWWII-era British actress. (Her real first name was Georgette.)

Orpheus PledgerNeighbours star

Logan LermanDreamboat

Bertram van MunsterThe Amazing Race mastermind

Skeet UlrichPoor man’s Johnny Depp. (His real name is Bryan Ray Trout.)

Walton GogginsJustified actor

Imogen PootsBritish ingenue

… 

 

Movie review: My Week with Marilyn

My Week with Marilyn

Ten, fifteen years ago, Dawson’s Creek was a thing on TV. Its adults-playing-adolescents cast used lots of big, wordy words, and the show captured something important in that inadvertent way teen dramas sometimes do (in their earlier seasons, at least)… but the show was, ultimately, just a teen drama.

My point is: who would ever have predicted that Dawson’s star Michelle Williams, slutty l’il Jen Lindley, she of Grams and death-by-heart-failure in the final episode, would go on to become such a critically acclaimed actress? Weird!

(The only modern-day teen drama starlet who might repeat Williams’ success is Shailene Woodley from I’m a Knocked-Up Teenage Slut, who’s pretty great in The Descendants. Emphasis on “might“, though.)

But god, Williams deserves the acclaim for My Week with Marilyn. She’s terrific. Enchanting. Transformative.

The film is ostensibly about Colin Clark (played by both Eddie Redmayne and Eddie Redmayne’s adorable smile), a chipper English lad who worms his way into Laurence Olivier’s film company in the 1950s. (By the way: this all really happened!) After Colin pretty-much-instantly becomes besties with every major British movie star of the era, he lands a job on “Larry’s” new comedy, which stars American sensation Marilyn Monroe.

Colin, inevitably, falls in love with Marilyn. It doesn’t really matter how this happens. But when it happens, it happens fast. One scene he’s gawping at her in her dressing room; the next he’s dangerously smitten. His colleagues warn him not to get tangled up in Marilyn’s Marilynness, but of course he thinks he’s in love with the true Marilyn, unlike all these other fools who fell for her public persona.

But is he really in love with the true Marilyn? I don’t think so – he’s as seduced by the persona as everyone else is. (“She makes you want to hug her, not have sex with her,” as Roger Ebert puts it.) But then so are we. The real Marilyn, whoever that was, is never fully revealed in this film, though Williams offers glimpses at her as she might have been.

And that’s a terrific achievement; probably Williams’ biggest achievement in this role. I hate to think what a campy mess a lesser performer might’ve made of it. Week‘s script isn’t deep, and on paper its Marilyn doesn’t extend beyond the bleached-blonde white-dress “Happy birthday Mr President” oh-so-vulnerable stereotype. But Williams delivers more than just impersonation. Her Marilyn has something rich and sad and raw swirling behind her “who, me?” innocence and va-va-voom sexuality.

Like its titular (no pun intended – minds out of the gutter, please) heroine, My Week with Marilyn is ethereal and unknowable – it’s light stuff, but it’s beautifully light, all sun-dappled warm tones and wistful soft focus. At times it’s frustrating: Marilyn is a pro at exploiting her strengths, while at the same time unable to appreciate them (which, the film implies, is what led to her – apparent! – death-by-drug-overdose).

The rest of the cast disappears behind Williams, but there are some solid performances: Kenneth Brannagh as Olivier, Dominic Cooper as Marilyn’s film-producing partner, Judi Dench as her co-star. The only disappointment is Emma Watson’s much-hyped role as a wardrobe assistant who catches Colin’s eye. Watson is just beautiful, but she just doesn’t bring anything to the film. When you’re starring alongside Williams, who brings everything she’s got, that’s a problem.

(That said: Watson’s line “Wait a while, crocodile” is my new catchphrase.)

 

Movie review: The Artist

The Artist

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, aka your new favourite film stars

Before everyone saw/sees The Artist they had/will have this exact conversation: “Every film critic in the world loves it, and it’s nominated for a million Oscars, but I’m not sure I’ll like it because it’s in black and white and it’s silent and it’ll probably be horrible.”

Critically beloved, Oscar-nominates bores are standard fare, especially at this time of year, so: fair enough. But The Artist is not boring or horrible! It’s really, really, great: unique and joyful and captivating and – best of all – unpretentious. Director Michel Hazanavicius didn’t make a black-and-white silent film then shove a stick up its ass just to show stuffy film critics how much he knows about cinema. He made a black-and-white silent movie because he’s passionate about cinema. The Artist glows with that passion.

There isn’t much to the plot – silent movie star is pushed aside by talkies movie star ((“Talkies”. Isn’t that a great word. “Talkies”. What a shame it fell out of fashion. Let’s all start using it again! “Hey, want to go to the talkies tonight?” “Nah, I hate 3D talkies.”)) but they fall in love anyway. That’s pretty much it. With an adorable dog. Spoiler alert! – but The Artist is nevertheless super-engaging. Because the story unfolds via expressions and body language and the occasional title card, you’re forced to pay attention. And this is a pretty rare thing in an age where everyone’s attention span is about three seconds long. Succumb to the siren song of your smartphone, and you’ll miss an important plot point… or at least the adorable dog doing something adorable.

There’s also the novelty factor of watching a black-and-white film – everyone onscreen radiates that spectacular monochrome glow – with almost no dialogue – “This is how people used to watch movies? Neat!”. But the old-timey gimmick doesn’t dominate The Artist to the point where that’s all there is to it. This is mostly down to leads Jean Dujardin ((Which is sexy-French for John Gardener. God, English is so dull.)) (his smile!) and Bérénice Bejo (her smile!), who are marvellous terrific wonderful amazing. Their chemistry! Please cast them opposite each other in another movie, Hollywood. I want to watch them together again and again and again and again.

Sadly, like many films before it, The Artist does not feature enough Missi Pyle. But it does feature just the right amounts of James Cromwell and John Goodman. I didn’t expect any of them to be in this film!

Don’t force yourself to see The Artist just because it’s got lots of Academy Awards nominations and you want to sound smart pretending you liked it. Go see it because it’s a fun, straight-up entertaining film.