By Daniel Barna - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 0 Comments
Winning an Academy Award can be the worst thing for an actor’s career
This Sunday, Jennifer Lawrence will cap off a stunning year, when she’ll likely be handed the Best Actress Oscar for her firecracker performance in Silver Linings Playbook, at L.A’s Shrine auditorium. Though Jessica Chastain has an outside shot at nabbing the award from Lawrence’s clutches, the 23 year-old actress is everything to everyone these days, and her official coronation as “America’s Sweetheart” come Oscar night feels all but inevitable. So with pre-Oscar-winning Lawrence already Hollywood’s current It-girl, J-Law the Oscar winner should become the biggest star on the planet, right?
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, February 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
Will the Oscar-hosting gig be the Family Guy creator’s stepping stone to onscreen superstardom?
Many performers have hosted the Academy Awards, but Seth MacFarlane, host of the 85th annual show, is something different: he’s not known for performances where he’s actually seen. As a TV creator and producer, MacFarlane became one of the most powerful people in show business thanks to the success of Family Guy, for which he also does many of the voices; he followed that up with two other animated series, then transitioned into live-action filmmaking by writing, directing and voicing Ted, one of 2012’s most popular comedies.
You wouldn’t think he had anything left to prove— being the highest-paid writer in TV with a reported salary of $33 million a year, and having influenced many other cartoons, such as Robot Chicken, a pop-culture parody created by Family Guy voice actor Seth Green. But recently, MacFarlane has been trying to get out in public—he hosted Saturday Night Live and sang at London’s Royal Albert Hall before landing the Oscar hosting job. It’s part of his attempt to go from animator to live-action star—and his colleagues think he can do it. “Watch this guy go,” says Family Guy and American Dad composer Ron Jones. “He will astound everyone.”
The transition from cartoonist to performer isn’t quite as strange as it might sound. Van Partible, creator of Johnny Bravo, the Hanna-Barbera cartoon where MacFarlane achieved early success as a scriptwriter, says, “the best cartoonists need to have a working knowledge of acting so that they can get their characters to perform and emote in a believable way.” Because of that link, many other writer-creators from the ’90s animation boom, such as Mike Judge (King of the Hill), are also vocal actors. But these other creators don’t usually try to separate themselves from the cartoon characters they play. Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park (who have bashed MacFarlane’s work on their show) accepted starring roles in the movie BASEketball after South Park took off. But the film bombed, and the pair settled for an offscreen role for their next project, achieving live-action success writing but not starring in the musical The Book of Mormon.
By Emily Senger - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 11:28 AM - 0 Comments
Back in time to the 1977 Academy Awards
Barbra Streisand will be back on stage at the Academy Awards this year, in a rather late encore performance 36 years after she sang the theme from A Star Is Born in 1977.
Here’s what it looked like then, when Streisand performed with John Denver and won her own Oscar for best original song for the A Star Is Born theme “Evergreen.” (The announcer is speaking Portuguese, but you get the idea.) Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 10:00 PM - 0 Comments
Hollywood’s myth-making machine never lets facts get in the way of a good story
It’s enough to make you wonder if Oscar is more history buff than film buff. Of the last decade’s 20 Best Actor and Actress winners, all but five starred in period films, and the majority played historical figures. They constitute a virtual Madame Tussauds, an Academy house of wax that includes Ray Charles, Harvey Milk, June Carter, Truman Capote, Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI, Idi Amin, Edith Piaf and Margaret Thatcher—and, in the chamber of horrors, serial killer Aileen Wuornos.
This year, Oscar’s love for “true” stories about momentous events remains undiminished. Leading the charge with a dozen nominations is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, with Daniel Day-Lewis appearing to have a bony-knuckled lock on Best Actor for his shrewd portrayal of America’s most iconic president. Lincoln’s rivals includes Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, both thrillers based on real-life tales of CIA crusaders fighting Islamic terror. And competing with Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica Chastain for Best Actress is a pair of contenders who fight historic forces even more cataclysmic than al-Qaeda: Naomi Watts, as a tenacious mother swept away by the 2004 tsunami in The Impossible, and Quvenzhané Wallis as a fictional kid braving the Louisiana floodwaters of hurricane Katrina in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
But the Academy seems more in love with the idea of history than the real thing—and with movies that turn fact into fable. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The problem is the makers of Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo keep insisting their films are faithful accounts, despite glaring evidence to the contrary. The result is one of the most politically charged Oscar campaigns in recent memory. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 2:13 PM - 0 Comments
With today’s announcement of the Oscar nominees, it came as no surprise that Steven Spielberg is back in the Academy’s good graces. Lincoln leads the pack with a landslide of 12 nominations, including Best Picture, Director and three acting nods. (Expect Spielberg’s smart, dignified epic to sweep many categories—and at least Best Picture, Best Actor for Daniel-Day Lewis and Best Adapted Screenplay for Tony Kushner.) But it was more surprising, and heartening, to see Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, based on the novel by Canadian Yann Martel, so amply rewarded with 11 nominations, including Original Score and Original Song for Canadian composer Michael Danna. Life of Pi is, in a sense, this year’s Hugo, a conjuring of old-fashioned movie magic through the lens of the latest 3D visual technology.
Somehow, however, the Academy failed to recognize the remarkable performance by Life of Pi‘s novice lead, Suraj Sharma, who carried the entire film. Yet it did anoint another novice, nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, making her the youngest Best Actress nominee in history for her bravura performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild. This year’s designated Little Movie That Could, it received four nominations, including Best Director for Benh Zeitlin, a New Yorker making his feature-film debut with a magic realist fable set in the Louisiana flood-waters of Hurricane Katrina.
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 8:58 AM - 0 Comments
Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ leads with 12 nominations
Nomination for the 85th Academy Awards were announced early this morning by actress Emma Stone and Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane, who will also serve as Oscar host on Feb. 24.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, October 1, 2012 at 2:29 PM - 0 Comments
So, Seth MacFarlane is the new Oscar host. My first reaction was to joke that he’s tired of success and is looking for the kind of over-exposure that caused people to turn on Ricky Gervais. But from his point of view, I sort of understand his recent attempts to make himself more of a public figure. He’s one of the most successful people in show business now, but he himself isn’t all that recognizable to the broader public, because they know his voice but not his face. Hosting the Oscars is a way of establishing himself as a live performer, and maybe paving the way for a future when he can star in his own movies—instead of hiring a better-known actor like Mark Wahlberg to be the face of his work.
Well, that’s what’s in it for MacFarlane—more public recognition. What’s in it for the Oscars? It seems like an odd, unfamiliar choice. But the Oscars are always on the lookout for hosts who can attract the Young People without driving away the Old People. The failed James Franco/Anne Hathaway experiment was an example of that. MacFarlane has one advantage over those two: his audience base is very young, but he’s actually beloved by middle-aged Hollywood as well.
You can chalk that up to his old-fashioned Rat Pack sensibility (his performing style is a mix of sincerity and phoniness; it’s also the style of music he and his bandleader, Walter Murphy, like to use). Also, his jokes are the right mix of “edgy” and populist, giving him a middle-age appeal that goes beyond almost anyone in Hollywood, except maybe Larry David. For example, David Simon, a middle-aged genius who doesn’t like most television, recently said that he likes to watch Family Guy with his adolescent son. Family Guy just seems to hit the sweet spot of appealing both to very young people and to the show business establishment. Same with Ted, a hit movie that was seen as an example of a movie that was both very commercial and very (or at least somewhat) personal.
So the Oscar/MacFarlane gamble, on his part, is that he can use the hosting gig as leverage to make himself into a genuine star— not just an incredibly successful creator/director/voice actor. His recent SNL gig didn’t make this seem entirely possible—he has this smugness about him that simply cannot be gotten rid of—but he can try again. As for the Academy, they’re willing to hitch their wagon to anyone who may be able to provide that rare cross-generational appeal.
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, February 24, 2012 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
Film critic Brian D. Johnson offers tips for picking Academy Award winners
Every year at this time, people ask me for inside dope so they can win their Oscar pool. Problem is, I’ve never won my own pool, and now refuse to join one. For a film critic, it’s a lose-lose situation—if I win, I have an unfair advantage; if don’t, I’m unqualified. This year looks more predictable than ever. With the rising profile of the Oscar primaries—critics’ lists, Golden Globes and guild prizes—the Academy Awards have become anticlimactic. But they’re still the only ones that matter. So for the love of the game, let’s play Oscarball! Here are some rules, and a batch of predictions from an unreliable oracle.
1. Oscar loves a good juggernaut. The Artist has swept the Directors and Producers Guild awards with no backlash in sight. Expect it to take Best Picture and Director. Caveat: Oscar loves to upset a juggernaut—Hugo and Martin Scorsese could do just that.
2. The best actors are not in the best pictures. The notable exception is The Artist’s Jean Dujardin. Otherwise, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are favoured to win Best Actress and Supporting Actress for The Help, which was shut out of every non-acting category but Best Picture. And Christopher Plummer has a lock on Supporting Actor for Beginners—its only nomination. Conversely, Hugo, which leads the pack with 11 nominations, doesn’t have a single acting nod.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 12:10 PM - 0 Comments
Scorsese, Clooney dominate; DiCaprio out
Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s debut with 3-D picked up 11 Oscar nominations Tuesday morning, including one for Best Picture. Following closely with 10 nominations, including Best Picture, is the silent film The Artist. Among the seven other Best Pictures nominees for 2012 are The Help, a portrait of the racial divide in 1960s Mississippi; Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. Among the surprise snubs are Bridesmaids and The Ides of March. Terrence Malick earned a Best Director nomination for his critically acclaimed The Tree of Life, along with Scorsese, Woody Allen and The Artist‘s Michel Hazanavicius. In the Best Actor category, the predictable nominees included George Clooney, for his role in The Descendants; Brad Pitt, for Moneyball; and Jean Dujardin, protagonist of The Artist. Surprise exclusions, on the other hand, befell Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March, Drive); Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar); Michael Fassbender (Shame). As is the case for the Best Actor category, Golden Globe winners Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) earned an Academy Awards nomination for Best Actress.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 10:49 AM - 0 Comments
Every time Spielberg doesn’t get a directing nomination for a movie that got nominated, I feel obligated to pull out this old clip of him not getting nominated for Jaws. Others have pointed out that he’s probably not so much being whiny as deliberately hamming it up for the cameras, but it just seems like the way a man-child Spielberg character would act if Frederico Fellini beat him out for an Academy Award nomination.
The increased number of Best Picture nominees makes it harder to get one of the few entertaining things about the Best Director award (which often seems to draw a meaningless distinction between being the best director and making the best film): that fifth nominee whose film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. All five of this year’s Best Director nominees are from nominated pictures.
By Colby Cosh - Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 3:34 AM - 0 Comments
I got the book The King’s Speech for Christmas and just finished it; in the very wide field of “slender material adapted into a thrilling hit movie, on whose strength it is then flogged”, it must be some kind of record-breaker. I enjoyed the book, as a reader with about a degree-and-a-half in European history and a keen interest in the pre-war period, but I do not have the creative imagination to have imagined it as fodder for Hollywood. The plain fact is that Lionel Logue scored his big breakthrough in treating the Duke of York (the future King George VI) very quickly, taking a matter of literally a few weeks in late 1926 to help him overcome his stammer and to raise his oratorical abilities to a standard of adequacy. After that time, Logue was consulted very occasionally, serving the King as a sort of good-luck totem on major occasions like the Coronation.
The men obviously got on well, and for decades His Majesty treated Logue with a touching solicitude. Logue’s life was otherwise uneventful. As even the most unschooled reader must have intuited, most of the stuff of the movie—the shouting match in the street, the poignant reconciliation, the surprise royal visit to Logue’s home—is a fairy tale.
But the Hollywoodization of the source material, which researcher/grandson Mark Logue waited until the Queen Mother’s demise to bring to the big screen, goes even further than that. A year after the Oscar triumph of The King’s Speech (still a marvellous film, in my view), most of the audience may still not know that the real Lionel Logue didn’t look anything like Geoffrey Rush. I was surprised to flip to the illustration plates in the book and find that Logue, far from being a vaguely ruined-looking, sad-faced fellow, was actually handsome in a Kennedy-family way. He seems to have positively shone with health and confidence—which, when you think about the background, should really be no surprise at all.
As the movie concedes, Logue had no professional credentials to speak of. He fell into “speech therapy”, a field that did not really exist when he started out, almost by accident. Elocution was about all Logue was any good at in school. In his day, that talent opened the door to a career in entertainment, as a reciter of poems and dramatic monologues. Mark Logue records that, as a young stage performer, he was an erotic sensation among the “goldfield girls” of Western Australia during a resource boom. The movie, by contrast, suggests that Logue’s acting career was no more than a pathetic fantasy. (How could somebody who looked like Geoffrey Rush ever have been a star of stage and screen?)
It was only with the return of Australian soldiers from the First World War that Logue’s calling as an elocution teacher began to tilt, almost imperceptibly, toward the bailiwick of medicine. Like chiropractors of today, he was ostensibly able to assist some afflicted people for whom scientifically validated medical care cannot do much good. His looks, along with a bit of actor’s training, must have helped a great deal.
(Incidentally, after Logue climbed to the top of the new discipline with royal help, he shrewdly pulled the ladder up after himself, employing George VI in an effort to establish standards and licensing criteria he could never himself have met when he was starting out. Public-choice economists will find this a textbook example of how health cartels establish “restricted entry” barriers.)
There’s something else the movie doesn’t disclose: Logue had cash. His grandson’s book shuffles around this topic a tad, but he mentions that the founder of the Logue family in Australia ran a leading brewery that eventually became part of a South Australian beer cartel. Young Lionel went to the best private schools, had the means to travel the world more or less on a whim, and seems to have had no trouble coming up with the cash to obtain office space in London’s Harley Street in 1924—the key decision of his life, amounting to a more or less outright purchase of instant quasi-medical respectability. (Even today Harley Street is the world’s most recognizable physical marketplace for private medical consulting.) Logue was not what you call rich, but the movie depicts a sort of brave, shabby gentility that probably understates the class standing of the real Logue—just as Geoffrey Rush’s rubber mug does poor justice to Logue’s looks.
Of course, “Handsome, affluent guy works his way into the good graces of royalty without much difficulty” wouldn’t have made for much of a movie, would it?
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, December 2, 2011 at 6:00 AM - 4 Comments
Monroe, Thatcher, Hoover, Freud—Hollywood is turning into the history channel
Here’s a pretty safe prediction: when the Oscars are handed out next February, the contest for best actress will come down to a duel between two icons, a bombshell and a battle-axe—between Marilyn Monroe and Margaret Thatcher, as portrayed by Michelle Williams and Meryl Streep. Oscar has always had a soft spot for biopics, especially if Brits, royals or showbiz icons are involved. The main event at the last Academy Awards was an unfair fight between The King’s Speech and The Social Network, as King George VI handily trumped the Machiavellian Facebook guru Mark Zuckerberg. And as the current award season warms up, it looks like real-life figures will dominate the field as never before.
They are led by a trio of heavyweights: Streep’s Thatcher in The Iron Lady, Williams in My Week with Marilyn, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover in J. Edgar. Bringing up the rear in David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method are Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung. The Lady adds a Nobelist wild card to the race with its portrait of Burmese opposition heroine Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh). Don’t count out Brad Pitt as Moneyball’s Billy Beane, the legendary manager who rewrote baseball’s bible and irrevocably changed the game. And trailing far behind the pack is W.E.’s Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), the woman who forced the abdication that gave us that stammering George VI.
In Hollywood, where making history is almost as important as making movies, the biopic craze shows no signs of slowing down. Steven Spielberg is currently shooting Lincoln, with Daniel Day Lewis carving out his own Rushmore portrait of the American president. And next year, ghostbuster Bill Murray gains gravitas as Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson, which has FDR and Eleanor mingling with Queen Elizabeth and King George VI (him again).
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, February 28, 2011 at 12:54 AM - 13 Comments
Okay, so you watched the Academy Awards, and it may well be that this guy is starting to look pretty good right about now:
At least Letterman’s story was just that he tried to do exactly the same thing on the Oscars that he did every night on his show, and it didn’t work in that context. It’s hard to know what Franco and Hathaway were trying to do, because even they didn’t seem to know. Basically, especially in Hathaway’s case (with her “Whoo”-ing and costume changes) they just seemed to want to be there and have fun. But Franco never really looks like he’s having fun even when he’s smiling. Franco was clearly the weaker of the two, since he simply can’t feign enthusiasm without a script and a director. But I doubt people will blame them either of them too much in the long run, anyhow. They’re actors, not comedians, so they can’t save bad material with ad-libbing, and the producers just didn’t give them much material to work with.
The narrative of the night, to the extent that it had one, was the producers’ obvious uncertainty about how to bridge Continue…
By macleans.ca - Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
The Quebec director talks about his shot at the Oscar
Read Brian’s article about spending three days in L.A. with Villeneuve—‘Just watch him’—in the March 7 issue of Maclean’s
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 3:20 PM - 0 Comments
Oscar favourite Colin Firth excels as a stammering royal who has to inspire a nation
No movie this year seems more assured of Oscar recognition than The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth as a monarch struggling to overcome his stammer. It does, after all, have the full set of attributes that define Oscar pedigree—stocked with Brit thespians, it’s a period film that is about royalty and presents an inspirational true story of an underdog overcoming a disability. The movie is also a proven crowd-pleaser, having won the Toronto International Film Festival’s audience award, a predictor of Academy success. It doesn’t hurt that the engagement of William and Kate has thrown British royalty back into the spotlight.
Although Hollywood’s timing is not that prescient, some cynics have even suggested that The King’s Speech was tailor-made for an Oscar coronation, which U.K. director Tom Hooper finds outrageous. “It makes me laugh to read in the press that this film obeyed some recipe for success,” he said by phone from Los Angeles last week. “When we were financing it, I can promise you, it didn’t seem obvious to people at the time.” Asking an audience to watch a lead actor stammer his way through an entire movie does, in fact, seem like a risky proposition. “There were so many pitfalls,” says Hooper. “It could have been comedic in the wrong way. It could have been so painful as to be unwatchable. It could have been so slow that at the end of 100 minutes, you’d be only three scenes in.”
By Anne Kingston - Friday, March 12, 2010 at 4:19 PM - 42 Comments
Gabourey Sidibe isn’t exactly on the road to becoming an “American Cinderella”
Howard Stern can be a nasty bastard—but he’s also often the only one willing to voice unpleasant truths others won’t. So it was this week when the Sirius shock jock unleashed a tirade against the future prospects for Gabourey Sidibe, the Best Actress nominee for her role in Precious. “There’s the most enormous, fat black chick I’ve ever seen,” Stern proclaimed the day after the Academy Awards. He went on to slam Oprah Winfrey’s tribute to Sidibe during the telecast in which she called the actress “a true American Cinderella on the threshold of a brilliant new career.” Stern was having none of it: “Everyone’s pretending she’s a part of show business and she’s never going to be in another movie. She should have gotten the Best Actress award because she’s never going to have another shot. What movie is she gonna be in?”
Stern was pilloried for being racist. He was also attacked for getting his facts wrong: Sidibe has been cast in the new Showtime comedy The C Word and the upcoming movie Yelling To The Sky, though neither are leading roles. The C Word stars Laura Linney; in Yelling to the Sky Sidibe plays a bully, which is safe to say not a role Halle Barry turned down.
On Wednesday, Stern defended his comments, taking on the role of compassionate health crusader. He compared Sidibe to his co-star Artie Lange, who recently attempted to commit suicide: “Like, I kind of don’t see a difference between what our Artie did—Artie tried to kill himself. And I feel this girl, in a slower way…she’s gonna kill herself.”
Stern being Stern, he couldn’t leave it there. He went on to deride the newcomer’s acting ability, calling her a “prop” in Precious, which suggests he didn’t see the movie or slept through it. His sidekick Robin Quivers chimed in with another inaccuracy: “You don’t have to be unhealthy to do that part,” she said. But any actress playing Precious, a 16-year-old girl monstrously abused by her parents, did have to be seriously overweight. The character’s only comfort comes from scarfing down tubs of fried chicken. Her excess flesh is not only a salient class indicator but also protective armour.
Off the screen, the 26-year-old is also creating buzz for showing no indication of signing up for a celebrity weight-loss reality show. On Oprah, she revealed she has battled her weight all of her life; it wasn’t until she was in her early 20s that she finally became comfortable in her own skin, she said. That was evident on the Oscar red carpet where she was joy to watch—exuberant, confident, loving every second, very much in the character of Precious who sustained herself with fantasies of being a celebrity. The actress ordered a camera to pan back to get her entire cobalt blue Marchesa gown in the frame and told Ryan Seacrest: “If fashion was porn, this dress would be the money shot.”
Watching, one couldn’t help wish for Sidibe to luxuriate in every second because deep-down we know Stern is right: Precious was a unique role; the odds of her transitioning into an American Cinderella—at least the Cinderella created by Disney who is slender and white—are nil in today’s Hollywood where women are valued for their youth, beauty and willingness to aspire to invisibility size-wise. “Plus-sized” or “full-figured” actresses (read: anyone over size six) have a tough enough time of it. Consider Nikki Blonsky who received high praise for her performance in Hairspray but hasn’t been heard from since. The verdict remains out on Jennifer Hudson, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Dreamgirls; she just dropped 60 pounds to play Winnie Mandela in a bio-pic.
The double-standard is so ingrained, it’s tedious: when Renée Zellweger gained 20 pounds to play Bridget Jones it was a major news story (and one suspects part of the reason she won an Oscar). Yet when Jeff Bridges packed on 25 pounds for his Oscar-winning role as washed-up country singer Bad Blake, no one asked for his weight-loss secrets. Male actors can get soft and paunchy and age and still get work—and the girl. Jack Black is allowed to play romantic lead against Kate Winslet. And nobody’s complaining that Philip Seymour Hoffman isn’t buff.
But Sidibe isn’t just “full-figured,” she’s obese—which, as Stern points out, is a hot-button topic in the U.S. and also a serious health risk. In Hollywood, morbid obesity is cheap-laugh fodder—slap a fat suit on Gwyneth Paltrow (Shallow Hal) or Eddie Murphy (The Nutty Professor/Norbit) and let the pathetic yucks begin. The 500-pound Darlene Cates who starred in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape in 1993 is an exception: she went on a few other roles, all of which hinged on her weight.
People went overboard rooting for Sidibe, Stern argues, “because she’s a big fat lady.” Maybe he’s right again. Consider it the Susan Boyle effect—the righteous pleasure of being so broad-minded to see that talent can come in different-sized packages. But the craving for change, evidenced in the first U.S. Black president, is deeper than that. Hollywood is taking tiny steps: Kathryn Bigelow broke through the male Best Director Oscar barrier. Meryl Streep is hotter at age 60 than she’s ever been. Helen Mirren is an inspiration. And non-stick figure Queen Latifah is playing a romantic lead in the upcoming movie Just Wright.
Fat, however, is more impenetrable, reflected in Stern mocking Sidibe’s for saying “I’m going to hit a Chick-fil-A,” a L.A. fast-food chain, after the awards. “That’s so sad,” he said. Of course, when the slender Best Actress winner Sandra Bullock expressed similar sentiment, it was heralded as a sign of how down to earth she is: “I just want to eat!” Bullock told the press room. “I just want to sit down and take my shoes off, and take my dress off, and eat a burger—and not worry that my dress is going to bust open.” Nobody, even Howard Stern, sees anything wrong with that picture.
By Brian D. Johnson - Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 7:09 PM - 23 Comments
7:08 p.m. Let the Games begin. As in Vancouver, we’re rooting for the Canadians. Which means King of the World (aka James Cameron), Jason Reitman and Ivan Reitman (director and producer of Up in the Air). And the two men behind District 9, writer-director Neill Blomkamp and co-writer Terri Tatchell.
Watching Ben Mulroney on the red carpet. Mo’Nique has just called him “brother.” Ben, you can take that to the bank. Jason Reitman has his soundbite down to a weary koan. On Up In the Air: “It’s a movie about family and it was made by a family.”
James Cameron talking to Ben about his rival, and ex-wife: “Kathryn has done a number of small films. She doesn’t play the Hollywood game.” And on the results tonight: “The tea leaves tell me that it’s going her way.”
7:13 pm: Barbara Walters’ Special. Her last special. OMG. Mo’Nique has just finished talking about the frictional specifics of being abused by her brother, and now she’s leaving Barbara Walters slack jawed by talking about how sex outside of her marriage is not a deal breaker. Next the camera moves in for a close-up of her hairy legs, as she delivers defence thereof.
7: 32 pm: We’re flicking between Barbara Wawa and Ben collaring Hollywood royalty. Ben asks George Clooney whether he gets more mileage out of an Oscar or being People’s Sexiest Man Alive. George says being sexy goes further. Ben, morphing into crazed fan, lunges at Meryl Streep as she sashays by, and she pats his microphone maternally. Media version of an air kiss. Or a polite way of saying, “Get lost.”
7:57 pm: This live blog, by the way, is coming to you from Helga Stephenson’s annual Oscar party. Helga is a former director of TIFF, chair of the recent Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and a global among cinephiles. Her annual Oscar soiree is always a blast. But I feel like a freak: typing at a party while watching television is perverse. Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 4:49 PM - 8 Comments
Scott Macaulay tries to explain the new Oscar voting system and how it works, with quotes from economist Justin Wolfers. Wolfers also provides some follow-explanation here. The use of ranked voting, familiar to those who follow sports MVP voting, means that a movie has the potential to win even if it doesn’t get the most first-place votes.
But that doesn’t really answer the big question: should Avatar or The Hurt Locker be considered the favourite to win? No one really seems to know. Unlike the other big categories, where the winner is almost pre-ordained, Avatar and Locker have sort of been co-favourites for a while; sometimes Avatar seems to have the momentum, and sometimes it’s Locker. (If Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy were alive, they would right now be playing Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron in romantic comedy about a divorced couple whose films are competing for the Oscar.) They’re different types of filmmaking, and both of them are types of movies that would, at certain times in Oscar history, be considered the likely winner. The question is not whether history will repeat itself this year, but which moment in history will repeat itself.
I reflexively think of Avatar as the favourite, because it’s a type of production that usually wins Best Picture: the long, huge-budget mega-blockbuster that “saves” the movie industry and gets the award because it’s doo too big to ignore. Winners that fall into this category include Gone With The Wind, The Sound of Music, The Godfather, and Cameron’s own Titanic. These were movies of epic length and scale that became tremendous hits (often after people thought the studio was going to lose its collective shirt on them). They combined massive popular appeal with technical finesse and a tendency to impress movie insiders: Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, January 8, 2010 at 11:30 AM - 4 Comments
Very Serious Dramatic Actress Meryl Streep has reinvented herself as a giddy comedienne
“It turns out I’m a bit of a slut.” When Meryl Streep makes that giggly confession in It’s Complicated—admitting, in a menopausal Sex and the City moment, that she’s having a raging affair with her ex-husband—you get the impression it’s a line she’s been dying to deliver all her life. For over three decades, Streep has reigned as Hollywood’s queen, earning a record number of Oscar nominations (15), and enjoying a career that’s the envy of every actress in search of a meaningful role. But lately, Streep has blithely thrown her gravitas to the wind. Taking flight in a string of confections, from The Devil Wears Prada to Mamma Mia!, she has starred in three comedies this past year—Julie & Julia, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and It’s Complicated. Our Most Serious Dramatic Actress has reinvented herself as a giddy comedienne. In the process, she has defied Hollywood’s laws of physics to prove that a 60-year-old woman can be both a romantic lead and a box office star. Well beyond the expiry date by which most leading ladies have retreated into character roles, Streep is basking in the greatest commercial success of her career.
But at what price? Well, though I’ve been enjoying Meryl’s triumphant populism as much as the next person, I’d argue that by turning herself into a more lavish performer, she has become a less credible actor.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, December 14, 2009 at 3:16 PM - 54 Comments
Tasteless, Ignorant Dismissals of the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Movies of 2009, None of Which I Have Seen
500 Days of Summer: This is the one with that anime-eyed chick who has the indie-pop duo, right? And the whole movie is pretty much just her being super mean to some guy for a year and a half? And the title comes from the character being named “Summer”, which should have been a dead giveaway to her boyfriend that she was a narcissist raised by obnoxious people?
An Education: I’m guessing the working title was A Pedo-cation. The “-cation” is short for “hour-and-a-half vacation in a movie theatre that’s probably not gonna be crowded at all”.
The Hurt Locker: Whoa, wait, I actually saw this one! Protip: it’s the same old buddy-cop movie, only in Iraq. [NOTE: REVIEW IS NOT IRONIC]
Inglourious Basterds: I was going to make the standard cheap joke about how Quentin found a way to make Hogan’s Heroes look relatively tasteful, but then I remembered that nobody under 80 really has any business questioning the tastefulness of Hogan’s Heroes (several of those cast members ran from the Nazis or risked death fighting them or both; the guy who played LeBeau was in Buchenwald). I find myself wondering if maybe QT did us a favour by bringing WW2 back within range of a purely artistic treatment. I’m actually going to watch this later today, so pretty soon I’ll be entitled to an opinion!
Invictus: Am I the only one who literally couldn’t believe this is the first time Morgan Freeman has played Mandela in a movie?
The Messenger: Outstanding year for Woody Harrelson, with Zombieland, Defendor, and now this. It’s not even a comeback—he’s always popping up in cool stuff, even though he’s got that Skoal-stuffed Kallikak face and gives every indication away from the set that he started life with an IQ of 80 and gave away about a sawbuck of that smoking the chronic. This is a guy who spoke the following words about making this very movie: “It made me care about the soldiers. Prior to that it wasn’t that I didn’t care about them, I just thought of them and the war as all the same thing.” And yet here we are, legitimately wondering: great American actor, or greatEST American actor?
A Serious Man: Do you figure the Coen Brothers realize we’ve all figured out which ones to skip and which ones to go see? Given the pattern of their career, you can actually catch yourself thinking “God, it’s almost like they’re two different people.” Just fire the Hudsucker Proxy one and keep the Fargo one already!
Star Trek: My hypothesis about the Disney-Marvel deal was that comic books don’t need to be profitable because they’ve become storytelling R&D labs for the movies. This is confirmed here by the use of the time-honoured “retcon” strategy as a means of breathing life into an effed-out bunch of characters we could otherwise hardly stand the sight of.
Up: Let you in on a secret: I’ve never really liked, as in really really really liked, a Pixar movie. I find even the good ones a little bit sterile and contrived. Which, obviously, they are, but that doesn’t stop other people from flipping out about how deep the philosophy of The Incredibles was or how Ratatouille was pretty well the equal of anything Kubrick ever did. The emperor has no clothes, guys! Most celebrities are terrible at voice acting, most of these movies have Kricfalusi’s Cal Arts disease in the worst way, and we should be way past having “Ooh, cool” reactions to nerdy little touches in CGI animation! Plus, shame on anybody who fell for the 3-D thing. You’re, what, the fifth or sixth generation of audiences to fall for this crap?
Where the Wild Things Are: I didn’t think it was possible for any literary work to attain a higher exegesis-to-original-text ratio than either the New Testament or Shakespeare, but Sendak proved us all wrong.
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 4:40 PM - 1 Comment
How will Wolverine fight Magneto now that his main mutant power is toe-tappingness?
A running diary of the 81st Annual Academy Awards:
6:03 p.m. ET We begin on the red carpet, where Ryan Seacrest is bragging about his location: “We are the very first live position where the stars will stop!” This ensures arriving stars will appear on Ryan’s show before their necks are disfigured by Joan Rivers’ fangs.
6:46 The official theme is revealed for tonight’s awards broadcast: the 81st Oscars— Maybe Next Year We’ll Nominate Someone You’ve Heard Of.
By Brian D. Johnson - Sunday, February 22, 2009 at 6:58 PM - 8 Comments
Liveblogging is print journalism’s extreme sport. A few cautionary notes….I will be liveblogging the Oscars from Helga Stephenson’s annual Oscar party (this year called Slumdog Futures). Alcohol will be involved. I’ll try to spend more typing than tippling, but I apologize in advance for typos, wildly unfounded assertions, slanders, and any outright fiction that may creep into my posts. For those who want to check up on my predictions, or crib suggestions for their own late-breaking Oscar ballot, go to BDJ’s Oscar Picks. But be warned: I have never won an Oscar pool. This year, apparently, the Oscars will salute all movies, not just the nominees. And in that spirit, you should check out the Toronto Film Critic’s Association’s Oscar-like montage of its own nominees and winners at TFCA Awards Video.
The red carpet nonsense has already started on E-Talk. Ben Mulroney’s tan (or is it makeup?) looks alarming in HD. Is he trying to become Canada’s first Obamatone prime minister? Whatever it is, the consensus in Helga’s Living Room is that it’s kinda creepy.
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8:05 p.m. I’m in a room full of people commenting on fashion. Much talk about all the bridal-like white and silver gowns. Jeers at Sarah Jessica Parker’s boob-popping dress, which one of our crowd described, more metaphorically than accurately, as “a Whole Foods bag.” Kate Winslet looks like a female Oscar, a human sculpture sheathed in a steely grey gown by St. Laurent with her hair carved into a living helmet. The interviewer on the red carpet shows a picture of her on the cover of Time with the headline “Best Actress.” She looks flustered when asked her reaction, then talks about how her kids advised her to handle her acceptance speech. One told her to go crazy. Don’t think she’s repeat that Golden Globes faux pas. And she won’t be declaring her undying love to Leonardo Di Caprio this time. Her other kid offered more level-headed advice:”Why don’t you say thank you to all the people for helping you.” Continue…