By Brian D. Johnson - Monday, January 26, 2009 - 2 Comments
The Oscar-nominated actor wanted to escape celebrity. The result is a quietly brilliant film.
Among the pictures vying for attention this awards season, none is larger or louder than The Dark Knight, and no prize seems more predictable than the posthumous Oscar Heath Ledger is expected to win for his supporting role as the Joker. But at the other end of the spectrum, the smallest and quietest film attracting serious notice is Wendy and Lucy, which features a remarkable performance by Michelle Williams, Ledger’s ex and the mother of his child. At the time of writing this, the Oscar nominations had not yet been announced, and it seemed unlikely such a tiny film would be recognized—especially with no campaign and a reclusive star. But Wendy and Lucy has landed on numerous top 10 lists (mine included), received two nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards, and won citations for best picture and best actress from the Toronto Film Critics Association.
Williams has won acclaim before. She and Ledger both received Oscar nominations for Brokeback Mountain (after falling in love and conceiving their daughter during the filming). But Wendy and Lucy, which begins a limited Canadian release next week in Toronto, is unlike anything she’s done. Scripted and shot with stark minimalism by director Kelly Reichardt, this marginal movie about a marginal character is virtually a one-woman show—the tale of a drifter (Wendy) who loses her dog (Lucy) while shoplifting groceries. Carrying barely enough money to buy gas, and sleeping in her car, Wendy is driving to Alaska to look for work in a cannery when her car breaks down in Portland, Ore. Cornered by a string of small catastrophes, then devastated by the loss of her dog, she comes to rely on the kindness of strangers—notably an aging security guard who spends his days standing watch in an empty parking lot.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button earned 13 nominations
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button came away with 13 nominations this morning, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Brad Pitt). Benjamin Button, the story of a man who ages in reverse, will be in tough on Feb. 22 against Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, Milk and Frost/Nixon. Here is a list of all the nominees.
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The humanitarian award isn’t the problem. It’s that he’s never got an Oscar for his films.
“Protests are coming into the Academy,” wrote Nikki Finke at deadlinehollywooddaily.com, and she wasn’t talking about the selection of Hugh Jackman to host the Oscars; the protests are over the selection of Jerry Lewis, comedian, octogenarian and French cult figure, to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Lewis has recently been in the news for calling someone “an illiterate fag” in the middle of his annual telethon for muscular dystrophy, and a number of people in Hollywood are wondering what kind of message it sends to give him a prize for people “whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.” But the thing that should be really controversial is that Lewis still hasn’t gotten a special Oscar for his film work. Film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, author of such books as Placing Movies and Essential Cinema, says that “American denial of the American love of Jerry Lewis is pathological,” and he might be right. Never mind the telethons or the tasteless jokes: the important thing about Jerry Lewis is that he’s one of America’s biggest movie stars.
The standard joke about Lewis is that he’s mostly popular in France (based on the fact that French film critics love him). But Rosenbaum notes that Lewis’s popularity in America was “far greater than any French love of Lewis then or later”; in his partnership with Dean Martin and then alone, he was one of America’s top box-office stars for two decades, with two hit movies almost every year. He directed or produced many of his own films, becoming a one-man comedy factory that Judd Apatow would envy, while creating gags that, as Pauline Kael wrote in a review of The Nutty Professor, could “hold their own with the silent classics.” In the near-silent The Bellboy or the lavishly designed farce The Ladies Man, he was as beloved for his facial expressions and pratfalls as his idol, Stan Laurel. His best physical routines, like the scene in Frank Tashlin’s Who’s Minding the Store? where he types on an invisible typewriter, are still popular attractions on YouTube.
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 7 Comments
Just when it seemed the award show couldn’t get worse, Hugh Jackman is chosen as host
As if we needed further proof that the Great Depression 2.0 is upon us, the producers of Hollywood’s most opulent showbiz extravaganza have decided that wit is a luxury item they can no longer afford. After two decades of hiring comedians to MC the Oscars, in a bid to revive plummeting ratings the Academy has chosen a hunk over a humorist. This year’s Oscar host is Wolverine. Or, as the multi-taloned X-Man is known outside his superhero franchise, Hugh Jackman.
Last year, the Oscars’ TV ratings sunk by 24 per cent to an all-time low. This should surprise no one. The TV audience is fragmenting. And by the time the Oscars roll around, we’ve seen so many trophies handed out—from the Golden Globes to the People’s Choice Awards—fatigue has set in. The Oscars may be the only awards that matter, but the show has become a pageant of robotic efficiency. The stars are so carefully coutured that no one makes wardrobe mistakes anymore, and spontaneity has been scripted out of existence. But instead of blaming the show’s lifeless production values, military pacing, and morbid tributes to the living dead, the Academy has ditched Jon Stewart—the sharpest MC it’s had in a while—and replaced him with a vapid pretty boy.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, December 12, 2008 at 5:49 PM - 0 Comments
Most popular headline so far about the announcement that Hugh Jackman will host the Oscars: “He better do it shirtless.”
Based on a very scientific poll of people who happened to be in the room at the time I heard about the announcement, there’s a lot of opposition to the idea of the Oscars being hosted by a man who a) Starred in the Christopher Nolan movie that nobody saw because it wasn’t Batman, and b) Only missed winning the Australian Box-Office Poison Award because Nicole Kidman exists. It was suggested that Tina Fey or Sarah Silverman would have been better, funnier choices.
But heretically, I think it’s a pretty good idea. Jackman has hosting experience, as you can see above (he hosted the Tonys three times). And it was about time that they tried having a host who isn’t a comedian, just for the sake of variety and also because there are hardly any comedians who have international recognition. (That was the problem with Jon Stewart last year: he was funny, but nobody outside North America knew who he was.) On the assumption that you need somebody who is reasonably well-known internationally, can host an awards show without embarrassing himself, and isn’t so famous that he’d be unavailable for a show like this, who’s a better choice?
Addendum: I realize that there may be controversy over the idea that Jackman didn’t embarrass himself in the above clip, but on awards shows, the definition of not embarrassing yourself is that you read your lines correctly and don’t drop any f-bombs.