Ramin Setoodeh

Stories by Ramin Setoodeh

  • A History of Oscar Smear Campaigns

    With The Hurt Locker in one scandal after another, the mudslinging has never been this bad. And it could only get worse.
  • Movie Review: Taking the Wonder Out of Wonderland

    One of the best running gags in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland(and there are many; every line of the Mad Hatter's dialogue could be from a Monty Python film) is that our little ingénue is constantly eating. When Alice falls through the rabbit hole, the first thing she does is drink a cherry-tart liquid and devour an entire cake labeled EAT ME. When she meets the hookah-smoking caterpillar, he offers her a mushroom and she nibbles on it for quite some time. No wonder she gets the munchies. But food is really just a setup. Every time Alice eats something in Wonderland, she transforms. One minute she's 10 inches tall; the next she's so monstrous, she can't leave the white rabbit's house. Near the beginning of the story, the caterpillar asks Alice a simple question—"Who are you?"—and she can honestly tell him that she doesn't know. She defies definition.The only way to understand Alice is to use your imagination. Do you even remember how to do that? In our society of...
  • The Death of the Biopic

    Charles Darwin has finally succumbed to the survival of the fittest. Creation, a movie about the creation of On the Origin of Species, was practically extinct on its arrival in late January—it's made only $140,241 as of last week. Nobody expects Darwin to outperform Avatar (or Alvin and the Chipmunks), but a documentary about monkeys at the zoo would make more money. "Darwin is a hard sell, even in my country," said the film's star, the British actor Paul Bettany, in a recent interview, "and that's where Darwin came from." Don't blame Chuck. Darwin is one of many historical figures who couldn't cut it in Hollywood. Last year directors churned out movies about Amelia Earhart (Amelia), Queen Victoria (The Young Victoria), John Keats (Bright Star), Nelson Mandela (Invictus), and Orson Welles (the fictionalized Me & Orson Welles), and not a single one was a hit. The Last Station, which gives us Tolstoy's last years, has made only $723,657 in limited release. The studio says it's...
  • Q&A: Director Garry Marshall

    Marshall directs Julia Roberts—and every other Hollywood actress—in Valentine's Day. He spoke to Ramin Setoodeh.
  • Mariah Carey Sleeps in the Nude

    She was almost booed out of Hollywood after Glitter, but Mariah Carey can act. Really. Don't believe us? Check out the homely, tough-talking social worker in Precious. She spoke to Ramin Setoodeh.
  • Let Heath Ledger Rest in Peace

    Sometimes a movie is so incredibly bad, you wonder how it ever got made. With Serious Moonlight, the answer is clear, and you'll feel guilty for even asking the question. This dark comedy is from a screenplay by Adrienne Shelly, the writer-director-star of Waitresswho was murdered in her New York office in 2006, just six months before her film was released. Shelly was a skillful storyteller with a knack for whimsical comedy. Or so we thought before Serious Moonlight, in which a bitchy lawyer (Meg Ryan) finds out her husband (Timothy Hutton) is leaving her for a younger woman (Kristen Bell), so naturally she reacts by hitting him over the head with a pot and duct--taping him to the toilet. Serious Moonlight is directed by Shelly's friend Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and is produced by Shelly's husband. No doubt they thought they were paying tribute to Shelly. Instead, they've done the opposite. This movie is so tone-deaf, it makes you question if Waitresswas just a fluke. ...
  • The Year in Depressing Movies

    There are grim movies, and then there are movies that should list the Grim Reaper in the credits. No Country for Old Men, the 2007 Oscar-winning drama, falls into the latter category, but it's as cuddly as a hamster compared with The Road, the latest adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel. The Road is set in a post-apocalyptic world where everything and almost everyone is dead. There are no trees, no grass, no sun, no food, and, worst of all, no booze to take the edge off. The few survivors are sometimes driven to devouring each other. Our two protagonists are tired, gaunt, and nameless: Man (Viggo Mortensen) and Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who spend the movie navigating through these various hazards on their long journey to ... where? I'm tempted to say it beats the hell out of me, but that may be the answer. ...
  • Wes Anderson's 'Mr. Fox' Is Fantastic

    Everybody loved the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factorystarring Gene Wilder. Everybody except for the guy who wrote the original (and the screenplay): Roald Dahl. "He hated it," says Lucy Dahl, 44, the author's youngest daughter. "In fact, I heard he wanted to get his name off the credits, but they wouldn't let him." Dahl also didn't care for the 1990 version of The Witches, and if he were still alive, we're not sure he'd have been impressed by Matilda(directed by Danny DeVito), James and the Giant Peach(the peach looked more like Cinderella's pumpkin), or Tim Burton's Wonkaremake (with Johnny Depp channeling Michael Jackson). "My father always hated his books being made into films because he wrote in a style that is very difficult for a filmmaker to reproduce," says Lucy. "A lot of filmmakers have come up against the problem of how to keep what he does so well: funny tragedy." (Article continued below...)Which brings us to Fantastic Mr. Fox, directed by the patron...
  • 7 Questions About 'Paranormal Activity'

    The new indie horror movie has audiences screaming—and Hollywood drooling. How it got from one man's digital camera to the big screen.
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    A Talk With Maurice Sendak

    The 'Wild' children's author has died at the age of 83. Read a 2008 interview with Ramin Setoodeh and Andrew Romano.
  • Q+A: Tom DeLay Schools Us on Birthers, 'Dancing,' and the Texas Corrections System

    Tom DeLay was the first politician on , and now his campaign is over. The former Republican House majority leader had to drop out of the show Tuesday night after suffering from stress fractures in both his feet. He spoke to Pop Vox Wednesday morning.Two weeks ago, I got a stress fracture in my right foot. Last week I got a stress fracture in my left foot. It was pretty painful to practice last week. Last Sunday I could only do 30 minutes. But I knew the dance, and I wanted to see if I could dance. We took it one dance at a time and it worked out. But I also knew I couldn't go through that again. In order to be in this competition you had to practice, and you had to practice four hours a day. I could only practice for 45 minutes and then ice. You have to have two feet to dance.I thought it would be a lot of fun. I was a fan of the show. The producers surprised me that they would even call. It didn't take me 10 to 15 minutes to say yes. It seemed like a challenge to me, w...
  • Q+A: Patty Duke Remembers 'The Patty Duke Show'

    The Patty Duke Show was my favorite television show as a child. It debuted in 1963, but I didn't catch it until many years later, when Nick at Nite picked it up in reruns in the '80s. I was in the first grade in 1988, and I remember that the show would come on at 8 p.m., right before I went to bed every night.Patty Lane (played by Duke) was like a high-school version of Lucy Ricardo, except she didn't have Ethel. She had something better: an identical cousin, Cathy (also played by Duke) from Scotland. The two girls would often switch places to wreak havoc on teachers, parents, and boys. In my mind, the series was as good as The Sopranos. But I was a little nervous to watch it again on DVD (the first season comes out today). How could the show possibly hold up to my memory of it? After all, Patty had stayed the same while I had evolved, finished grade school, graduated from college, and found new, more sophisticated TV interests.A few weeks ago, at home sick with a...
  • Q+A: Ian Somerhalder Is Dead Again! This Time on 'The Vampire Diaries'

    by Ramin SetoodehIan Somerhalder was the first actor killed off Lost, and now he’s dead again—in The Vampire Diaries. The CW series premiered with 4.8 million viewers earlier this month, the best ever for the network, making it one of the breakout hits of the fall season. Somerhalder spoke to Pop Vox about playing a bloodsucker.How did you end up in Vampire Diaries?I desperately wanted it. My girlfriend and I were in the desert in Vegas, and I realized I'd missed this meeting. My agent called me back and said, "They need you there at 11 in the morning, having memorized nine pages of the script." It's now 9 o'clock at night in Vegas. We got up very early and I drove across the desert while she slept. I taped my pages together; that's how I worked on the material.You memorized the script while you were driving?I probably shouldn't be saying that. It wasn't dangerous. I'm a good driver. Booking this show was a crazy ordeal. They tested a...
  • 'The Informant!': Why Carbo-Loading Might Hand Matt Damon an Oscar

    Matt Damon is receiving some of the best reviews of his career for Steven Soderbergh's The Informant! and he deserves all the praise. Damon plays real-life FBI whistleblower Mark Whitacre, who tries to expose his company's price-fixing tactics, only to later discover that his own tactics are under investigation. It's not just that Damon embodies his character's nerdy, jittery disposition, he also embodies his character's doughy body. Damon put on 30 pounds for the role. "I started eating like crazy and drinking dark beer," Damon told Entertainment Weekly. "Between meals on set, I'd eat a no. 1 value meal at McDonald's and then Doritos on top of it. It was absolute heaven." It might even get better, Mr. Damon. You'll probably land an Oscar nomination for this performance. If you're a famous actor, gaining or losing weight is for a role is a surefire method to land critical props—and Academy Awards. (It's a differ...
  • The 8 Most Shocking Moments at the MTV Video Music Awards

    by Ramin SetoodehI don't know how it looked on TV, but from Radio City Music Hall last night, the MTV Video Music Awards were like (to steal the title of a Britney Spears song) a circus. And we had our favorite ringleader presiding over the cermonies, Madonna—remember the time she kissed Christina Aguilera and Britney, or how she stared down old versions of herself in a music dance tribute? This year, the Material Girl opened the show, but all eyes were on Jackson: Michael Jackson, who Madonna paid tribute to in a heartfelt soliloquy. "Long live the King," she said, after recounting a special dinner she had with him in '90s, which ended with the two of them holding hands. (Eww. Don't worry. It was strictly platonic.)Then Janet Jackson took the stage—to a roar from the crowd—for a dance medley (that required no singing) dedicated to her late brother. And there were plenty of other Michael references from everyone from Nelly Furtado to Russell Brand, the evening's host. "Tonight is...
  • The Emmy Roundtable

    Five Emmy-nominated comic actors talk about what makes funny people funny, whether TV has gotten too raunchy, how the Web has changed comedy, and more.
  • Why Ellen DeGeneres Could Top Paula Abdul as the New Judge on 'American Idol'

    By Ramin SetoodehLet's say you're a powerful executive looking to hire somebody for a job on the No. 1 show on TV. As you comb through the applicants (lots of pop stars, including a certain former Spice Girl with a posh haircut who shall remain anonymous), one application really stands out. This performer began her career as a stand-up comedian. She has hosted the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, and her own talk show, which has been slowly nipping at Oprah's numbers. She played the first openly lesbian sitcom star on TV, and she broke down barriers for gay rights without clubbing people over the head with it. And, like the woman she is replacing, Paula, she goes by only one name: Ellen.Yeah, that's right. Ellen DeGeneres has been announced as the new judge of American Idol, and it could very well be one of the most brilliant casting decisions on TV. Until last night, most Idol fans (myself included) were still furious at Paula Abdul's premature dismissal...
  • Lady Gaga on The Fame, VMAs, YouTube

    One of the most unpredictable women in music opens up about her next big act. It's a moment that could live in YouTube infamy.
  • 'The September Issue': Stop Picking on Anna Wintour!

    Is Anna Wintour hiring? She won’t have any trouble collecting résumés after her new film makes the rounds. In The September Issue, a new documentary about the editor of Vogue, we learn that the woman who inspired The Devil Wears Prada isn’t really so devilish. Actually, she’s diligent, demanding, decisive, and, yes, even at times a little debonair, like when she greets an up-and-coming designer on the red carpet. So why does Anna Wintour get labeled with the other D word, and a B word that makes powerful women cringe?...
  • Oscar's 'Slumdog' Problem: Too Many Nominees

    Not because it didn't deserve to win, but because it was yet another art-house movie to walk away with the grand prize. The Academy decided this year to increase the number of best-film nominees from five to 10 because the smaller pool had been dominated by small films. And without any megahits in the mix (Wall-E, The Dark Knight), the ratings for the Oscar telecast have continued to slide. Last February, they were down to a mere 36 million viewers—how humiliating! The theory is that opening the door wider will allow films such as Up to make the cut, and millions of fans will tune in to root for their fave. But this creates two possible problems. With more nominees, a film will need fewer votes to win. So a movie with a passionate following can tip the balance, even if, say, StarTrek isn't anywhere close to being the best movie of the year. The second problem: Star Trek could get an Oscar nomination.
  • Front Row at the 'American Idol' Concert

    Do not adjust your screens─you aren't seeing double. The two women pictured above actually each made their own Adam Lambert stick puppets, which they proudly showcased Wednesday night (along with their black nail polish) at the American Idol concert on Long Island. That's Eydia on the left and Sharon on the right─and Adam and Adam. You can't blame them for not giving me their last names; they are Adam-Lambert-oholics, after all. "He's the best singer," cooed Eydia, who confessed she drove for 105 minutes to see Mr. Lambert in the flesh with her co-worker.This year's American Idol concert might as well have been retitled the Adam Lambert concert, because, really, the show's runner-up was the singer the crowds flocked to drool over. As I walked into the Nassau Coliseum, a girl in front of me had written "Adam Lambert Has My Heart" in colored glue on the back of her T shirt. Tweens hovered around at intermission flapping photos of...
  • Which Dance Show Should Paula Abdul Join?

    by Ramin SetoodehIn this bad economy, is anybody hiring? Yes. But only if your name is Paula Abdul. The former American Idol judge and publicity machine—she topped headlines once again, this time for quitting the No. 1 show on TV—is now apparently the most employable woman in America. It's only been a few days since she packed up her red Coca Cola cup, and she already has two job offers. Oddly, they're both from dance shows. Decisions, decisions. Since Paula has been so kind to Idol contestants over the years, we thought we'd return the favor. Hey Paula, let's talk through your next career move: Job No. 1So You Think You Can Dance?The Offer: Nigel Lythgoe, who used to work with Paula as an executive producer on American Idol, offered her a spot as a guest judge and choreographer on his show.The Ups: Next to Mary Murphy and Lythgoe, Paula won't have to work very hard to be the star.The Downs: Does anybody watch this show? The summer premiere caught just under...