Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hey, that voice is familiar!

Animation films over the years have heavily promoted celebrity voices portraying characters. In “Toy Story”, there’s Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. “Shrek 2” had Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas. What we don’t hear publicized are the voices that narrate TV and radio ads.

Here are some examples:
Honda – In previous years, we had Burgess Meredith (best known as “The Penguin” from ABC’s “Batman” and Jack Lemmon (“The Odd Couple”). Coincidentially, both Mr. Meredith and Mr. Lemmon starred in "Grumpy Old Men". Recent ads have featured Kevin Spacey (“American Beauty” and “The Usual Suspects”). Mr. Spacey and Mr. Lemmon have appeared together in "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Dad".

Lowe’s (home improvement retailer) – Gene Hackman, who starred in “Unforgiven”, “The French Connection” and “The Conversation”.

BMW – I’ve only heard her on radio ads, but I know it has to be indy film queen Patricia Clarkson (“The Station Agent” and “Good Night and Good Luck”).

Kaiser Permanente Hospital – These radio ads air primarily in California, but again, the voice has to be Allison Janney of NBC’s “The West Wing”.

Mercedes-Benz – Previous TV ads featured Joe Mantegna. Mr. Mantegna is best known as Will Girardi from the recently cancelled CBS series “Joan of Arcadia” and the voice of recurring character “Fat Tony” on Fox’s “The Simpsons”. He also starred in the stage version of "Glengarry Glen Ross" on Broadway.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Before fame and fortune

Other than my friends Josh and Amy, I am probably one of the few people on earth who reads TV and movie credits. I often find myself watching something on cable I've seen before and now notice earlier work of an actor I didn't recognize when I saw it the first time. There are many film/TV stars today that had humble beginnings, and here are a few examples:

Clive Owen (yes, for the 3rd time, he’s gorgeous)
Mr. Owen appeared in PBS’s “Mystery!” in a mini-series called “Second Sight”. This only caught my attention after first seeing him in “Croupier” a few months earlier. He plays DCI Ross Tanner, a man slowly going blind, yet still has to attend to his crime-solving duties.

Russell Crowe
Before he won his Best Actor Oscar from his role in “Gladiator”, he appeared in TV and films in Australia. Two of those films are “Romper Stomper” and “The Sum of Me”. In his “Romper Stomper” role, he portrays an angry skinhead and in “The Sum of Me”, he is a gay man whose father helps Mr. Crowe’s character find Mr. Right.

Sandra Oh
Most of us know her from “Sideways” as Stephanie and as Dr. Cristina Yang in ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy”. Check her out in a little-known Canadian film called “Double Happiness”. Like many of us 2nd generation Western raised Asians, she lives a life torn between family obligation and maintaining her own identity.

(All references courtesy of

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ang Lee

Work finally has slowed down from the mad holiday rush last month. On the drive to and from the office today, I gave some thought about my next topic. Still in Golden Globe mode after 5 days, Ang Lee, who won Best Director, Drama, for "Brokeback Mountain" came to mind. He has a very impressive filmography both in his native Taiwan and the United States.

From Taiwan, my first viewing of Mr. Lee's films was "Eat Drink Man Woman". The story focused on a father who lived with his 3 adult daughters. The only way he was able to establish any kind of relationship with them was through his cooking. Having grown up in a family restaurant business, I found the movie semi-biographical. What actually attracted me to the film was a TV review and the frequent close-ups of food. I can't sit through this movie without getting hungry.

The other 2 films, "The Wedding Banquet" and "Pushing Hands" are actually earlier releases I saw several years later. Like "Eat Drink Man Woman", the common thread to all these films was an aging father coping with a world changing too fast. "Tortilla Soup" (starring Hector Elizondo and Elizabeth Peña) used the same plot and changed the ethnicity to Latino, but Mr. Lee's film is far superior.

If you're able to get access to it, look for "The Hire: Chosen" from BMW's "The Driver" series (starring the gorgeous Clive Owen). The boy featured in the short film is Mr. Lee's son Mason.

Before "Brokeback Mountain", Mr. Lee also directed:
"The Ice Storm" (Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci)
"Sense and Sensibility" (Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant) and while not hugely successful, "Hulk" (Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly).

Don't forget in between "S & S" and "Hulk" there was "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" featuring Asian mega-stars Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, and Ziyi Zhang.

I look forward to whatever he does next.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

World Premiere

Hello and welcome to my blog! I'm Lani, born and raised in Columbus, OH who has resided in beautiful San Francisco for the last 22 years (now nearly half my life). My current employer is the 4th retail company I've been with now for the past 4 years. I really enjoy what I do, but outside of work, I love seeing and discussing movies. Especially independent films. My other passion is food, and that will be discussed ad nauseum in future postings.

While most of you were probably watching Kiefer Sutherland kick butt on"24" Monday night,  I watched the Golden Globe awards. It isn't as formal as the Academy Awards and there are too many categories. But to me, the informality is what makes this fun to watch.

It was great to see Philip Seymour Hoffman win as Best Actor, Drama, for "Capote". It made me forget that he ever did supporting roles in films such as "Twister", "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia". The screenplay was written by Dan Futterman, an actor formerly of CBS's "Judging Amy" and an obscure film called "Urbania". Mr. Futterman also made a guest appearance on "Sex and the City" as Charlotte York's potential boyfriend, Stephan (gay or straight?)

The other fascinating connection unknown to most adults watching was the awards for Best Actor and Actress, TV drama. Hugh Laurie, who won for Best Actor in Fox's "House" starred in the "Stuart Little" films with Geena Davis, who won Best Actress in ABC's "Commander-in-Chief".

All of this can also be found at
It is the resource I refer to constantly, and often settles arguments on who was in what film or TV show.