Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Flicked Off, with Mary HK Choi and Alex Balk: 'Nine'

The ladies of "Nine"
Nine, directed by Rob Marshall, opens in limited release tomorrow. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, and Stacy Ferguson.

Mary: So you saw "Nine."

Balk: I did indeed.

Mary: Are you a Fellini fan?

Balk: I am. I am also a "Nine" fan. I saw the musical as a kid, and pretty much know the score by heart.

Mary: Oh wow, that's WEIRD. I do not care for musicals. In fact I hate them. I was wholly prepared to hate this fucking movie. Sometimes I like to get angry, and that's fun in and of itself, BUT I kinda LOVED this movie, and was shocked. Were you horribly disappointed since you had benchmarks and love and stuff?

Balk: I sort of understood why they cut what they cut and added what they added. And I have a couple of issues with it, I guess, but I generally really enjoyed it. The fact that it is a valentine to the female ass did not hurt either.

Mary: And boobs. So many great boobs.

Balk: I was too busy focusing on the asses.

Mary: Beeeeeeeeeee ITALIAN!

Balk: Ha! Let me ask you a question: I take it you were totally unfamiliar with plot and score? Or had you seen "8 1/2?"

Mary: I have seen "8 1/2 " but in the background of parties. Not like sitting down and watching it all the way through and then thinking hard about it.

Balk: How Felliniesque.

Mary: With sunglasses.

Balk: So I'm wondering what you loved about it? A couple of people I talked to who did not have the same prior knowledge I brought to it were unimpressed; they thought the songs were too samey. How did it work for you?

Mary: Well here's the thing: I didn't even really know that it was a musical. Because I filed that tidbit of information somewhere and lost it. So to me it was just this movie with an all-star cast and then I read the press notes and wanted to kill myself or leave but was in midtown and it was very cold outside. SO. The opening was GAHROSS.

Balk: That's actually not dissimilar to how the show opened. Was it too stagy for you?

Mary: And the DDL's accent was ridiculous and I didn't understand it and was immediately worried that we'd have to see Dame Dench and Sophia Loren do sexymenopausy stuff and want to puke. And I hated how the opener was this highlight reel of what to expect next etc/intro of the cast and characters. BUT. Here's where it works for me: I hate musicals because I hate when people explode into song. It's like unexpected slam poetry. It's so aggressive. The fact that all of this was SUPPOSED to be onstage and stuff made it easier for me to digest as a hater of musicals. I knew it was coming and that made it better.

Balk: Yeah, they did a good job of keeping the songs discrete from the action.

Mary: AND the fact that at the end of the day these actresses are so fucking talented and sucking all the juju from a room and puking it back at you. They're SO good at that energy suck and snowball, and I love that. And the action wasn't just some hackneyed stitching the musicals bits together; I was interested in the story. AND it was BEAUTIFUL. The styling was AMAZING.

Balk: That was another question, did the story work for you? I mean, I am a man of a certain age, but I could really FEEL Day-Lewis' agony, etc. Did that come through?

Mary: Well. I'm not sitting there thinking I have anything in common with DDL other than wanting to fuck Penelope Cruz and wifing Cotillard. BUT. I definitely understand having to be around a creative who's being a big old baby about the significance of the work they do. Also, I live in New York and date in New York so the hypochondriac thing was very well done and recognizable. I see myself as the Dench character most of all, I guess.

Balk: The chick who does the clothes.

Mary: No, the chick who coddles the dude because he's SOOOOO special for being a dude. He was being a very convincing man of a certain age.

Balk: Agree. And the women! I thought they were all great. Biggest surprise (outside of Cotillard, who I regret to admit I have never seen in anything before) was that Fergie was actually pretty good.

Mary: YES. Because she was fat. Well, not like an actual fat person. But I like that she LOOKED like a whore.

Balk: She totally nailed the Italian beach hooker look.

Mary: Absolutely. It reminded me of the Chris Isaak/Helena Christensen vid, in part, which is STILL CLASSIC. Also she reeeeeeeeked of sex. Stank. And that was great. But she really turned it out in a highly complex HELLA choreographed number. Was the choreography the same as the OG musical? I was partly blown away by that, how emotive it was.

Balk: I think this was a lot more stylized and over the top. Which I expect has something to do with Rob Marshall? (I never saw "Chicago" either.)

Mary: "Chicago" was crap. It was boring and shitty and completely devoid of sexuality. It was Svedka robots in comparison.

Balk: Ha. Well this movie was for sure all sex all the time.

Mary: YES. That Penelope Cruz number where she's essentially fully clothed but oh my god SO NOT CLOTHED. It was insane. The curvature of her ass was obscene.

The ass that launched a thousand dicks (Alt: How 'bout that ass?)
Balk: Yeah, that was the ass that should get the Best Ass Oscar, if they've added that category.

Mary: They should add that and just make a really elaborate reel. What did you think of Hudson? Easily could've been the weakest link, maybe other than Fergs.

Balk: Pleasantly surprised. It's a new song, so I wasn't in love with it, but I felt like she worked it.

Mary: I was NOT MAD at her and I hate her pointy head! It's the first time she gave me a little Goldie.

Balk: Yes.

Mary: Can you imagine how tense that girl must've been? That was terror dancing and I loved it. That set must've been psychologically rough.

Balk: There was that kind of off-kilter vibrancy that you get from her mom but rarely see in her.

Mary: YES. Also balls out, where she's not wondering what she looks like because she trusts the process.

Balk: Yeah, she totally gave into it.

Mary: Which is what made this movie for me. Everyone decided to go in. I would've hated it if the casting had been in anyway different, because I just wouldn't have suspended the disbelief/animosity. I just wouldn't have gone with. But I went. It was kinda a succubus orgy

Balk: Nicole Kidman: I think she may be the only part of the movie that was not 100%?

Mary: I did not like her. She was beautiful. Her costumes were flawless. Her lighting was incredibly generous. BUT. Bitch can't sing. It's like "Moulin Rouge" where I'm wondering the whole time why the fuck these assholes are yelling at me. It was the whispery version of that.

Balk: Yeah, she seemed a little, I dunno, flat? It didn't feel like she brought the same energy. And yeah, part of that is the character, but Cotillard has this one down-tempo ballad that she totally rocked.

Mary: Cotillard can make her retinae quiver in a gonzo way, but, yeah, with Kidman, it's not character: It was her larynx. I thought about Randy Jackson, and how he'd call her performance pitchy. It was HELLA pitchy. Girl didn't know where she was going. Honestly, and I know this sounds assy, I just don't think she practiced as much as the others. Boom.

Balk: Oooh, you went there.

Mary: And she looks like a retard in a fedora, as many people do.

Balk: Do you think they were all intimidated by Sophia Loren being there?

Mary: Intimidated as in concerned she might have a thrombosis? Man, Sophia is OLD and kinda nuts looking. But her sternum is youthful, I noticed.

God will punish Mary for the terrible things she said about Sophia Loren
Balk: I am glad you are the one who said that.

Mary: Dude, she looked wild. And not like, yum, feral Italian.

Balk: Because I cannot. It would be like insulting God's girlfriend.

Mary: God's goomar.

Balk: She _is_ 75.

Mary: Yeah. I can't even tell if she LOOKS GREAT FOR HER AGE, because the superolds are like the babies.

Balk: Okay, I think we hit all the chicks. What about Day-Lewis? I agree with you about the accent, which sounded Russian in some parts. But then again, this is Daniel Day-Lewis. He spent TWO years researching or something? Maybe that's exactly what an Italian born in some 1920s Marchese city would sound like speaking English?

Mary: BUT. The thing that I thought was interesting about DDL is that it's the first time I heard his real life speaking voice accent in an accent. Like, if you think about "There Will Be Blood," that was a viscous dark NOT HIS REAL VOICE accent, and he stayed with it throughout. This Italian accent was this weird Russian thing but then, every third voice, there it was-his real life talking/giving interviews voice. And that shocked me, since he's so good at accents.

Balk: Maybe he was too worried about the singing. Which I thought he handled fine, btw.

Mary: His singing was GREAT. He also went for it. And it wasn't fancy: It was solid, with a confident delivery.

Balk: Here is the thing that really worked for me about the movie, and what works for me about the musical in general:

Mary: It's all you. Go.

Balk: There's a line in Joseph Heller's "Something Happened" that is one of my favorite things ever. The main character says, "I know at last what I want to be when I grow up. When I grow up I want to be a little boy." And what this story is about is someone who is still basically a little boy in appetites and selfishness and the rest of it, being forced to actually grow up. And it works. You believe it.

Mary: This is true.

Balk: The final shot of the movie, which I don't want to spoil, is so perfect. I don't know if you saw "Life Aquatic," but that ends with Bill Murray lifting the little boy on his shoulders and walking out triumphantly. It's a beautiful shot, but it feels cheap, because I don't think that movie EARNED it. This one, however, oh my God, it works so well.

Mary: YES. I agree with the final shot of the movie.

Balk: I love the whole end, the curtain call type thing.

Mary: Yes. There needs to be a German word for this bromantic nostalgia dudes feel for the purest form of themselves which is them as a wee kid. It's so "Transformers" Optimus Prime dying. I don't think it belongs to me.

Balk: Haha. Weirdly, it ties into this longstanding theory I have about why men take breakups harder than women do.

Mary: That is a different post.

How I will grow my hair. Maybe.
Balk: Fair enough. Finally, my big takeaway from the movie was that I want to grow out my hair like Daniel Day-Lewis' if I still can.

Mary: OH MY GOD YOU TOTALLY SHOULD! I think long hair is coming back in, or at least, or that length hair. It goes with smoking for sure.

Balk: So much smoking in the movie. Loved it.

Mary: You know what it is? It's irresponsible sex hair.

Balk: Yes.

Mary: That's good hair.

Balk: That is what I want to convey, irresponsible sex.

Mary: If you got it, smoke it.

75 Comments / Post A Comment

mathnet (#27)

You mean you didn't go together?

jolie (#16)

I was picturing them holding hands in the popcorn. I couldn't decide which one I was more jealous of.

mathnet (#27)

Do you think they were sitting across The Awl Conference Table from one another, IMing?

katiebakes (#32)

Wait, I really want to know more about the breakup theory!

mathnet (#27)


EXACTLY. I have demanded a FULL POST on this matter.

jolie (#16)

Wait, call that guy back in who objected to men crying anywhere ever. He should hear this so he can better understand our cohort.

Bittersweet (#765)

Yes, please!


"Balk: Haha. Weirdly, it ties into this longstanding theory I have about why men take breakups harder than women do.

Mary: That is a different post."

because, correction: it is *not yet* a different post! that post has not been realized! and it needs to be!

Alex Balk (#4)

We're holding it in case we need the traffic for January. But it involves algorithms. ALGORITHMS!

okay, well, let me know if you need any algorithm help with MS Excel or something. i'm good at it! or, at least, i do these things for fun (e.g. 6.5MB but virus-free MS Excel file: also, i just finished a super-intro stats class? maybe that could help?

you know, anything to get this published soonish, basically.

ah! that end parens shouldn't be included in the html link. not that it really matters, but here:

barnhouse (#1,326)

Could not BELIEVE she cut him off, there.

Bittersweet (#765)

I think they're adding the Best Ass category to the Oscars in 2011.

HiredGoons (#603)

"She was beautiful. Her costumes were flawless. Her lighting was incredibly generous."


HiredGoons (#603)

I will give her 'To Die For.'

Also, this exchange is fucking priceless.

jetztinberlin (#392)

I agree – sing, never; but she could TOTALLY act back when she could still move her forehead.

"Flirting," also.

HiredGoons (#603)

I thought she was good in 'The Others' but mostly because I imagine that is what she is really like – high strung and crazazy, clingy, and slightly delusional.

mathnet (#27)


A thousand times YES

Let's see you take elephant shots of botox all over your grill and emote!

HiredGoons (#603)

I'm too jaded to be looking constantly surprised.

mathnet (#27)

Everything both of you just said is right before I've seen the movie. But I don't actually understand why Alex hasn't seen Chicago?

jolie (#16)

Goodness, even I've seen Chicago. (Will you start liking me again now? Sniffle.)

mathnet (#27)

Close your italics and I'll think about it.

jolie (#16)

Girl, I know. I don't know what* is wrong with me this week – I'm a mess!

*See what I did there?

jetztinberlin (#392)

Oh phew. I actually held my breath opening this to see whether you guys liked it. I am a huge (HUGE) nerd.

I'm totally saving that irresponsible sex hair thing to use on my boyfriend the next time he threatens to cut off his hair. Except that that picture of Penelope Cruz makes me strongly question my heterosexuality. OHMAGAH drool.

paco (#2,190)

Every time someone declares she's a HUGE NERD, a little kitten puts premium gas into his rental car.

brad (#1,678)

1. i hope to enjoy cotillard in a way that doesn't frighten me ala la vie en rose.

2. having worked in a musical theater for years (and met my wife there) i can't handle bursting into song. don't burst into song around me, i'll kick you in the abdomen.

3. as much as i adore women's asses- and i do adore them with a debilitating love that borders on the worship of art- i would consider going gay for DDL.

She is also in Public Enemies, pretty much playing the same character.

brad (#1,678)

does she have eyebrows in this movie?

Kakapo (#2,312)

I know. After leaving "La Vie en Rose," I remember thinking, "I don't remember Edith Piaf being quite that much of a cartoon character." But then I rewatched some old clips and realized that she was pretty damned close.

riggssm (#760)

Speaking of Chicago the movie, is it just me, or is the first promo pic a copy of a Chicago the movie promo pic, but with old ladies in front of an old stone building?

(Kidman is UH-UH, and Dench is SQUISH, etc.)

SemperBufo (#1,849)

Mlle. Choi, I would blow off my job right now if it meant I could take you to see 8 1/2. I'd buy you popcorn & I'd get to hear your first reactions to what really should already be a part of your brain. You'd spend the rest of the day buying scarves and big sunglasses. But I don't think it's playing anyplace.

HiredGoons (#603)

8 1/2 is unbefreaklievable.

Kakapo (#2,312)

I'm going to be sacriligeous here and say that, while "8 1/2" is certainly great, it could easily lose about a half hour… like just about all Fellini movies following it. Can't go wrong with "Nights of Cabiria," though, which interestingly was also made into a musical that seemed to miss the point.

HiredGoons (#603)

You are not wrong. 'La Dolce Vita' could also use a nip-tuck.

…And when you see it, DVD will only suffice as long as it's playing on a screen big enough to live in.

We will agree to disagree about the end of Life Aquatic. That is all.

Abe Sauer (#148)

A lot of parents are going to take their children to see this wonderful kids' movie "9" they heard about (Oh, it's back in theaters!) and be VERY disappointed.

This year has been confusing us with that number.

joshc (#442)

I'm surprised they weren't forced to change the title to "NINE: adapted from the Broadway musical by Arthur Kopit, Mario Fratti, and Maury Yeston based on Federico Fellini's 8½" a la Precious.

As a man of a certain age I caution against irresponsible sex hair;it's a high performance vehicle and a thing of beauty but it can spin out of control with devastating results.

Vulpes (#946)

But what about Judi Dench? 'Cause, really, her and Sophia Loren are the only bitches in this movie I care about (even though *small voice* I absolutely loved Moulin Rouge and thought Nicole Kidman one of the most beautiful women ever before she decided to freeze her face and go blond).

hockeymom (#143)

Thank god you said that about Moulin Rouge. There is an Ewan McGregor song in there that I adore.

Bittersweet (#765)

I will slightly modify the second sentence of your comment to read "There is a Ewan McGregor in there that I adore."

There. All fixed.

iplaudius (#1,066)

I hate musicals because I hate when people explode into song. … It’s so aggressive. … It's like “Moulin Rouge” where I'm wondering the whole time why the fuck these assholes are yelling at me.

Until I read these remarks, I could never satisfactorily explain why I felt similarly irritated by musicals.

brad (#1,678)

it's not just that. it's the attention whore syndrome in full bloom. if you don't look at me, they seem to be (what can loosely be called)thinking, then i'll just start belting. try and not pay attention now!

Hobbesian (#255)

Penelope, you minx.

belltolls (#184)

I will see this because I love women.

HiredGoons (#603)

London, France – etc.

God help me, Penelope could beat me with one of her shoes and I would be perfectly happy.

Matt (#26)

The only time Nicole Kidman has ever "brought the same energy":

Ken Layne (#262)

Hey fact-checkers that is NOT Penelope Cruthes' ass, that's a bit of cloth over her vaginal-crotch region. Jesus, you people. (But still, alt text on the alt text!)

Alex Balk (#4)

I got lazy with Google image search. Sorry.

jfruh (#713)

What do people think about this thing now where all actors feel a need to actually sing, themselves, when they are in a musical, even if they are not really very good at the singing, this being in contrast to the way it was done Back In The Day when musicals were an everyday thing and not some exciting bit of retro, when if the actor couldn't sing they'd just dub some actual singer's voice in because, fuck, it's all artifice anyway, why not?

Thank you for addressing the Fergie issue. I was about to write this movie off because of it!

Rod T (#33)

Choi lost faghag points.
Balk gained them.

Did I just hear Kate Hudson sing "I love the Guido neo-realism?"

Alex Balk (#4)

One of my first thoughts when I saw this was I bet the Weinsteins were PISSED "Jersey Shore" started up right before the movie opened.

paco (#2,190)

I'm not trying to be a jerk or anything, but how much mileage can you Awl writers get out of writing things in ALLCAPS? When will it end? Thank you.

brad (#1,678)


you're welcome.

Mary HK Choi (#1,469)

I would rather write things in scratch n sniff stickers but it's expensive and they won't let me. Ooooooooh! Or die cut and have a pretty tartan underlay. What would you have me do? Think up more betterish words? Maybe I'll use sentence case and just go up in font size with a drop shadow. Do you know how to do that? WHY WON'T YOU HELP ME?

paco (#2,190)

Would it be JERKY of me to point out that you probably should have used some plain old hyphens (available free of charge on your keyboard) to write out "scratch n sniff," as it's a COMPOUND MODIFIER? Thanks, you guys.



brad (#1,678)

paco tiene grammer.

bendiagram (#2,762)


rj77 (#210)

Every time I see the bloated drag queen that is Fergie, I remember the cute little blond girl who used to be on Kids Incorporated and wonder what the hell happened.

Vulpes (#946)

In a word: meth. But I have to say, I'm with you: I can never not hate Fergie, even though everyone else seems to (even though her album and the BEP's album is huge), because she was on Kids Incorporated. I mean, It's Stacey!

Vulpes (#946)

Woops, I mean, "never hate"!

paco (#2,190)

Thanks for not posting my comments because they are too critical of the authors. COURAGE.

Your comment was held for approval, as an anti-spam measure, because it contained two or more links.

Don't be so fast to see a conspiracy!

Also, it wasn't that critical! I enjoyed it.

andrea (#1,025)

I enjoyed it as well, and I'd like to add that as a reader I get a bit of cognitive whiplash when I am made to read words like "retinae" alongside words like "HELLA."

SemperBufo (#1,849)

paco- you may be in need of a vacation. Ask your physician.

hmshore (#2,663)

Mary, can't believe you actually said that she looks like a retard in a fedora. Would you have said she looks like a chink in a fedora? What about the N word???
Why do you give everyone a pass except people with special needs? Shameful.

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