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5 Hollywood Blockbusters Too Freakin’ Bloated for Their Own Good

Quality filmmaking isn't just about what footage you put up on the screen -- it's what you choose not to put up there. Sometimes too much of a good thing can be just as frustrating as too little. Which is why a tight script and an experienced editor will always be a director's best friend. Unfortunately, the following movies were made in defiance of this age-old advice. And believe me, they all suffered the consequences in their own ways...

Jackie Brown (154 mins.)

Quentin Tarantino's views on movie length have always been at odds with, you know, society's. At least when it comes to his own creations. And although none of Q's flicks will be accused of anything resembling brevity, this one remains the worst offender by far. Spinning the yarn of a flight attendant hoping to swipe a half million dollars, Jackie Brown wallows in stakes simply not high enough to warrant two hours and 34 minutes of screen time. Worse still, we poor, unsuspecting viewers are eventually subjected to the same 'bag switcheroo at the department store' scene over and over again, from various characters' POVs (with precious little payoff, btw). I honestly haven't spent this much time at the shopping mall since I was fifteen.



Star Trek: The Motion Picture (132 mins.)

Sometimes a 'lengthy' film's problems have little to do with its run-time. At two hours and 12 minutes, the first installment of the hit-and-miss Star Trek movie franchise isn't obscenely long -- it just feels that way. A key culprit here is the excruciatingly drawn out set-up. With their film hitting theatres a full decade after the original series concluded, Paramount Pictures and director Robert Wise clearly wanted to give the stars their due. Which means the entire first act is little more than a series of cast re-introductions. "Hey, it's Spock! What's he been up to? And look, there's crotchety old McCoy! Let's follow him around for a while!" And so on and so forth, with every. Single. Character. Couple this with impossibly long exterior shots of ships docking and space looking all pretty, and it's no wonder you'll want to take a Learning Annex editing course and cut this sucker down to size. Also, the bad guy turns out to be an old NASA probe that's come to life -- a ham-fisted reveal we can all agree should have been cut too.



The Matrix Reloaded (138 mins.)

What made the original Matrix film an instant classic was its pitch-perfect balance of suspense, action and mythology. Put another way: it messed with your mind as it kung-fued your body. Sadly, the long-awaited follow-up achieved just the opposite. Replace 'mythology' with 'confusing techno-babble,' 'action' with 'sensory overload,' and 'suspense' with 'long, pointless set pieces' (that Zion rave scene, anyone?). Basically, The Matrix Reloaded sees our beloved franchise crawling up its own arse, and the end result, as you might expect with such a contortion, ain't too pretty. Ponderous, navel gazey and remarkably flat, this film will make you want to reconnect those firewire cables and crawl back into your fetus pod.



2001: A Space Odyssey (161 mins.)

Sure, it's a visually stunning cinematic classic with groundbreaking special effects. But it's wayyyyyy toooooooo freakinnnnnnnnnnn' lonnnnnnnnng. And not because Stanley Kubrick had too many brilliant things to cram in there. 2001: A Space Odyssey could be perfectly told in an hour and forty-five minutes, without rushing any of the story beats, dialogue or character development. There's an age-old rule of cinema the Kube chose to blatantly disregard: begin each scene as late as possible, then end each one as early as possible. Hey Stanley: to establish the fact humans evolved from apes, you don't need to give us thirty minutes of primitive monkey men eating, sleeping, fighting and pooping.



King Kong (187 mins.)

The story of King King is so incredibly taut, I can tell it as a haiku:

Monkey gets captured
Steals girl, climbs building, goes splat
Beauty killed the beast

Which begs the question: why is Peter Jackson's 2005 update a full 87 minutes longer than the 1933 original? Simply put, it's because he's Peter Jackson, and my man loves when stuff overstays its welcome ("Adapt Tolkien's 300-page novel The Hobbit into three feature-length movies? Sure!"). Less is most certainly more, and believe me, viewers needed much, much less of this bloated tale of oversized simian lust. Here's a filmmaking tip for you budding directors out there: when possible, try and have your title character appear within the first seventy minutes of screen time. Just a thought.

Freddie Fox, ‘Cucumber’ Star, Won’t Define His Sexuality

Freddie Fox stated this week that he cannot define his sexuality because one day he "might fall in love with a man."

Fox, currently the star of queer drama "Cucumber," from the writer of "Queer As Folk," made the comments during an interview with The Telegraph, adding that, historically, the "appreciation of both sexes" is not a new concept. However, the actor stopped short of using identifiers such as "gay," "bisexual" or "queer" to define himself. He told The Telegraph:

I hope that I am the type of person who would fall in love with another person, as opposed to a sex. Most of my life to date has been as a straight man, but who knows what will happen next?... A lot of people will hear that and think it means, ’Well, he’s gay and just excusing it’, or ’He’s been with his girlfriend for a really long time and just wants to change things’... Appreciation of both sexes is actually not new; it’s incredibly old it’s Roman, it’s Greek, and it is something people can do throughout an entire lifetime, having hugely meaningful relationships, no matter what sex they are.


As noted by The Mirror, Fox has previously played characters whose sexuality played a central role in plot development, including the movie "Pride."

Fox isn't the first celebrity to resist taking on labels when discussing their own sexuality. Previously, actress Raven-Symoné told Oprah that she did not want to be labeled "gay" but that she was in "an amazing, happy relationship with my partner. A woman."

Check out the trailer for "Cucumber" above.

(h/t Towleroad)

Don’t Blame Oscar, He Just Works Here: Hollywood’s All-White Problem

If you have been following the blogs in the wake of the Oscar nomination announcements, you should be well aware that this is the first time no person of color has been nominated in any acting category since 1998. Combined with Dr. Brittney Cooper's trending essay on Salon.com, taking the recent Golden Globe production to task for failing to speak out about violence against black men and women, this has again put into focus the lack of minority voices in mainstream American film.

I'm a white man who writes about movies, and as such, not many people outside my own circle of friends are all that eager to hear my views on racism. And to be honest, even my friends aren't all that interested. So I will simply make one point about the subject as it relates to movies and leave it to better qualified people to debate the rest.

This is not a Golden Globe problem or an Oscars problem. This is an industry problem.

Criticizing self-congratulatory awards operations is rather easy. If you want to be mad that Selma didn't win the Golden Globe or that director Ava DuVernay was not nominated for an Oscar, have at it. In the past week I have read countless pissed-off tweets and blogs and messages from fans of Unbroken or Interstellar or The Lego Movie who are incensed over the fact that some academy or another didn't confirm his or her opinion about what was best. I certainly would have nominated David Oyelowo in the Best Actor category. But as it relates to awards, I'm more upset that the actor who I think should have actually won the Oscar - Nightcrawler's Jake Gyllenhaal - was also not nominated. (For the record, I would have removed Steve Carell, who isn't even really the lead actor in his movie, and Michael Keaton, from that nominee panel.) I realize that awards, especially highly promoted ones, do matter in garnering both recognition and profit for movies, so I certainly understand why many people have complained about this. But it is not especially productive.

Instead, we need to be discussing why mainstream American film produces so few movies that offer award-worthy roles to actors of color. Because if Oyelowo had been nominated, would that have signaled anything truly meaningful? How many other black actors had roles that were even in the discussion for awards this year? In addition to Oyelowo, I would have considered Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lorraine Toussaint, Cedric the Entertainer, and Astro for nominations. But I would not have put any of them in a top five. In fact, I think the most distressing thing about black actors and Hollywood this year was the fact that an excellent young black actor, Chadwick Boseman, got a chance to play an iconic and mercurial black performer, James Brown, in a movie this year, and the movie so neutered Brown's sexuality that even a strong performance by Boseman was largely an afterthought. That is the type of role that should garner nominations, but unfortunately, mainstream American film does not seem to have a clue about presenting a character like James Brown.

At the same time, I don't think it does much good to overstate, or indeed misstate, current conditions in Hollywood. For instance, I can't tell you how many news outlets referred to Selma's "snub" when the Oscar nominations were being reported. This, despite the fact that it was actually one of the eight movies nominated for Best Picture. Perhaps Oyelowo or DuVernay were snubbed, but I never read that. Even Dr. Cooper, in her passionate condemnation of the Golden Globes, wrote that "it would be impolitic to say that Selma received no awards because of white liberal guilt..." three paragraphs after writing about actor/musician Common's acceptance speech for the song he wrote for Selma.

We shouldn't ignore the fact that things have improved. One year ago, 12 Years a Slave was nominated for nine Oscars, and won three. It won both the Oscar and the Golden Globe as Best Picture. But maybe just as important, this year a genuinely bad remake of the musical Annie starred two black performers in the lead roles, and their race had nothing to do with the story. Quvenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx were merely a spunky foster child and a rich overachiever. Progress made - a lot more work to be done. That's the nature of any change.

I choose to believe Selma did not win the Golden Globe for Best Picture because as good as it is, it is a flawed movie. For me, it has nothing to do with the depiction of President Johnson, which has angered some. The scenes depicting Dr. King and his supporters and detractors preparing for Selma are outstanding. The scenes of him with his wife Coretta strike me as very similar to countless domestic scenes I have watched in many movies and soap operas. That is what weakened the movie for me. I had the exact same reaction to another highly-regarded award contender this year, The Imitation Game. Like Selma, it is about a very complex and towering historical figure who overcame great society-imposed obstacles to benefit all humanity. As in Selma, I found the scenes of Alan Turing struggling with his major achievement to be outstanding. But the flashbacks to Alan as a boy, which were so important to the filmmakers, left me rather bored, and wishing for a speedy return to the main storyline.

As for David Oyelowo's omission from the Best Actor competition, I do believe that has to do with ingrained and systemic racism -- a glaze that simply values white performance over black performance. But that has been changing and will continue to change. What concerns me more is that in 2014 formidable actors such as Denzel Washington and Idris Elba were given nothing better to do than play derivative characters in derivative action/suspense films like The Equalizer and No Good Deed. That's why this is an industry problem. The American film industry is directed more and more toward such derivative work. With so few good, original roles being created, actors of color, already marginalized, will find it harder and harder to land award-worthy roles.

So be angry about the awards show if you feel they are unfair. But recognize that they merely serve as a thermometer, and are not the cause of the infection.

Dorota From ‘Gossip Girl’ Was On Last Night’s ‘Girls’

Sunday night's episode of "Girls" provided a lot of seemingly meta commentary on Lena Dunham and the reactions critics have to the personal nature of her work, but few puns. That's too bad, since Dorota from "Gossip Girl" was one of the guest stars.

DOROTA

Dorota, whose real name is Zuzanna Szadkowski, plays Priya on the new season of "Girls," a classmate of Hannah's at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Here was her take on Hannah's first story: "It's about a really privileged girl deciding she's going to let someone abuse her."

DOROTA
Image: Ask Dorota

During the episode, the official "Girls" Twitter account gave Szadkowski a plug befitting her status as a "Gossip Girl" alum:




Szadkowski, who has also appeared on "Elementary" and "The Knick," was pleased:




Xoxo.

Dorota
Image: ET Online

Billy Crystal: Gay Scenes On TV Sometimes ‘Too Much For Me’

Billy Crystal was one of the first actors to play a gay character on television, but that doesn't mean he isn't wary of some of the gay content that ends up on the small screen.

The beloved comedian opened up about his feelings regarding the nature of gay scenes on television while speaking at a panel for the Television Critics Association on Sunday in Pasadena, California, the Independent reports.

"Sometimes I think, 'Ah that’s too much for me,'" Crystal said. "Sometimes, it’s just pushing it a little too far for my taste and I’m not going to reveal to you which ones they are."

As Deadline reports, Crystal also spoke about his groundbreaking gay character, Jodie Dallas, which he played on ABC's "Soap" from 1977 to 1981.

Crystal spoke about the role on Sunday, ET Canada reports:

There were times where I would say to [the actor who played his boyfriend], 'Bob, “I love you,' and the audience would laugh nervously, because, you know, it’s a long time ago, that I’d feel this anger. I wanted to stop the tape and go, 'What is your problem?' Because it made you sort of very self-conscious about what we were trying to do then. And now it’s just, I see it and I just hope people don’t abuse it and shove it in our face -- well, that sounds terrible -- to the point of it just feels like an everyday kind of thing.


Crystal is currently promoting his upcoming new FX series "The Comedians," which is his first television series since "Soap."

In recent years, more and more queer content is making its way onto the airwaves. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters and storylines can be seen in popular shows like "Looking," "Modern Family," "Empire," "Transparent," "Orange is the New Black," "American Horror Story" and "Glee."

Earlier this month, comedian Kevin Hart also sounded off on gay roles in Hollywood. "I can't [play a gay character] because I don't think I'm really going to dive into that role 100 percent, because of the insecurities about myself trying to play that part," he told hosts of the Breakfast Club on New York's Power 105.1. "What I think people are going to think while I'm trying to do this is going to stop me from playing that part the way I'm supposed to."

9 Blockbusters With Smaller Opening Weekends Than ‘American Sniper’

Following three weeks of incredible limited release grosses, Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper" shattered box office records over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. "American Sniper" earned an estimated $90.2 million during the three-day frame, breaking a record held by "Avatar" for biggest January weekend ever. The $90.2 million also ranks as the best debut for a live-action performance from star Bradley Cooper (Cooper's voice-only role in "Guardians of the Galaxy" earned roughly $4 million more in ticket sales) and Eastwood's biggest opening as a director. There's more coming too: it's expected that "American Sniper" will cross $100 million on Monday, making it the only Best Picture nominee thus far to cross that threshold in North America. Overall, "American Sniper" ranks as the 40th best debut of all-time, just behind the first "Harry Potter" film. To prove how significant all these stats are and put the debut into some context, HuffPost Entertainment found nine blockbusters with smaller opening weekends than "American Sniper." This one is simply massive:

Yolanda Foster Blogs About Her Battle With Lyme Disease: ‘I Have Lost the Ability...

"Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Yolanda Foster spoke up about her struggle with Lyme disease in a new blog post on BravoTV.com. She used to post regularly on the site, but started this letter with an apology to fans: "I would like to apologize for my lousy participation in the blogging department at the moment. Although writing is usually my favorite thing to do, I unfortunately have lost the ability to do so in an intelligent matter at this time."

She then described her struggle to do everyday tasks: "I have lost the ability to read, write, or even watch TV, because I can't process information or any stimulation for that matter. It feels like someone came in and confiscated my brain and tied my hands behind my back to just watch and see life go by without me participating in it."

Foster was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012 and though it has remained nearly absent from this season of "Real Housewives," her illness was always a small part of her storyline. Foster often shares updates on her health via Twitter and Instagram and aims to educate the public about Lyme Disease. Read her full blog post over at BravoTV.com.

Disney Stars Share What Martin Luther King Jr. Day Means To Them

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is more than just a day off from school -- it's a day to celebrate an activist who changed the world through his fight for equality. From leading peaceful protests to inspiring thousands to stand up with him, we honor Dr. King for his bravery and vision.

Scroll down to see what MLK Day means to your favorite Disney stars and tweet @HuffPostTeen to share what today means to you.

Dr. King will forever be remembered as the most courageous civil rights figure to ever live. He was a man who empowered people around the world to stand up for themselves and for their brothers and sisters who were being discriminated against. We celebrate his work, peacefully protesting and him sacrificing so much for a cause bigger than himself.


-- Cameron Boyce, “Jessie”

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Martin Luther King, Jr. was an amazing man who led us into a future of a more integrated world. His life and legacy has taught me to speak up and to stand up for what I believe in. His bravery and commitment will always be remembered for generations to come. Thank you Dr. King for everything you've done for this country.


-- Karan Brar, “Jessie”

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Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my personal heroes. His will and determination changed the world and still inspires people many years later. Martin Luther King, Jr. has taught me personally to fight for what is right and to never back down and to do this always in a peaceful way.


-- Rowan Blanchard, “Girl Meets World”

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Every day I am reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy as I try to embrace the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that defined his character. I am inspired by Dr. King to be a person of action... one who doesn't just talk about justice, but takes action to end injustice. His life and legacy motivate and influence me every day of the year.


-- Zendaya, "K.C. Undercover"

zendaya

Martin Luther King, Jr. set an example for the way we should all live our lives and his acts of nonviolence continue to inspire me to handle situations in a peaceful manner. I admire and appreciate Dr. King's sacrifices for peace and equality.


-- Kamil McFadden, "K.C. Undercover"

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Martin Luther King, Jr. was such an incredible man not only because of what he did for racial integration, but also because he showed the world how to fight back peacefully. I am so thankful for Martin Luther King, Jr. because he will forever be remembered for demonstrating something I firmly believe in: No matter how different we look, act and seem, we are all human beings, and we all deserve the same amount of respect and compassion.


-- Laura Marano, “Austin & Ally”

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