Sunday, February 28, 2010

Please Don't Eat The Eye Candy

And thus concludes the eye candy weekend.
Eye candy is pretty to look at...

but one should think twice before eating it.

Eye Candy Weekend: Sexpots of the Year

Sexy, like funny, is highly personal. So take these annual awards -- honoring characters that turned us on -- with that knowing grain of salt. Maybe they won't do anything for you. But for this movie buff...

The photo above is from model Jon Kartajegna's single scene in A Single Man. He plays the john "Carlos" and his lips alone are so intoxicating that Tom Ford has to reveal them through a slow burn cloud of smoke rather than just hit them with you all at once. And the prudish American trailer had to cut him out altogether for fear that audiences would get the wrong idea and think this was a [gasp. clutch pearls]... gay movie. Say it isn't so!

One only wishes that Colin Firth's George had gone home with him to bone up on his shaky Spanish. Then the movie could have burst free from its repetitive blueball drama in which George begins to feels something and then runs away from it. Repeatedly. I realize that's the point of George's return to living but didn't you want more Kartajegna, too?

The latest update to the FiLM BiTCH Awards also throws longing glances at Clive, Vera, Michelle, Gwyneth, Neytiri and two double-your-pleasure 2009 hotties, Penélope Cruz and Rupert Friend. Which star turns raised your temperature?

Oscar Shmoscar: Julianne's Campaign Lives On!

Eye Candy Weekend

Julianne Moore is the NY Times cover star for Women's Spring Fashion 2010. Mmmmm Julie Ann Smith. She never fails to awe in still photography.

The Times claims that she "acts out the complex theater of feminine personae for the photographer Raymond Meier" ...isn't that what she does every time the camera is on her?
Her own description of her character-building for A Single Man (we don't normally hear her talk this explicitly about her process) makes me love the performance more in retrospect
A lot of the character began with a particular vocal choice: she’s someone who is very wealthy, very educated and kind of a party girl. There’s this way of speaking among these women where you don’t know whether they’re posh or hammered all the time. So, that’s where I started. Then I listened to very early Julie Christie, to get the early-’60s kind of sound...
Julianne listening to Julie? Someone needs to make a short experimental film inspired by that.

Click on the photos to take a look at their shoot. If I were a photographer she'd definitely be near the top of my long must-get list. Along with so many others but the ones that just occurred to me while typing away were Anne Hathaway, Jude Law, Juliette Lewis, Olivia de Havilland (for the private audience you know) and James McAvoy. Off the top of my head.

Who would you thrill at capturing on film... and which complex personae would you hope they worked for the lens?

Supporting Actress Smackdown 2009

I haven't participated in a "Smackdown" over at me pal StinkyLulu's place for ages. What better time to correct that than during Oscar season? It won't surprise you that Mo'Nique has my vote for Precious but see how many hearts (on a scale of five) each nominated performance gets from myself, StinkyLulu, and the rest of the panel and what we had to say about Maggie Gyllenhaal, Penélope Cruz and the Up in the Air girls, too.

Supporting Actress Reader's Choice Have you voted? Time is running out. I've also spruced up this page to include more details like "how'd they get nominated" and such. Enjoy
FiLM BiTCH Awards It's time for the Medals Ceremony for our nominated supporting stars (male and female). Cue the national themes of Austria and the United States.

Best Costume Design and More...

It's Eye Candy weekend

Do you have a favorite horse in the Costume Design race? Sandy Powell (The Young Victoria) and Colleen Atwood (Nine) are facing off yet again. They both have 8 nominations and 2 wins behind them. The elaborate rags of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and two movies with self-made fashionistas as protagonists (Coco Before Chanel and Bright Star) are also in the running. I've whipped up a gallery for your edification. So, why don't you take a looksie and then vote in the poll. And if you love this sort of thing (and you should!) you can also see my personal ballot (and medalists).

I'm assuming that The Young Victoria will take the Oscar because, the beauty of its costume aside for a moment, Royalty Porn nearly always triumphs in this category. Royalty Porn is to this category what psycho killers are to Supporting Actor and what longsuffering girlfriend/spouse is to Supporting Actress and what DeGlam is for Best Actress (though not so much this year). In other words, it's their drug of choice.

P.S. An interview with my favorite working costume designer is coming up soon!

P.P.S. New readers choice polls require your attention, too: Director, Original Score, Cinematography. You can see how the collective polls for the major categories are shaping up right here ...and there's only a few days left to vote on all of them.

Beauty Break: Bollywood

It's Eye Candy Weekend

This month I've felt a burgeoning desire to start investigating Bollywood, the most popular brand of cinema with which I am least acquainted. You may have noticed. I think this has something to do with never being finished with movie glamour but being very finished with this particular Oscar season. Are you worn out on it yet? If you're a Bollywood fan, please suggest 5 must-see movies in the comments (other than Lagaan which I have seen and greatly enjoyed... but for the length). I'm not sure how quickly I'll get to them or if I'll do anything with them on the blog but I need to get schooled. Please suggest movies with a maximum amount of eye candy because I'm shallow like that. Movies with great song scores too would be ideal because I live for musicals.

And now, some of my favorite beauties of Bollywood... in still photo form at least.

Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan (pictured above) are the two Bollywood mega stars I've known the most about. And this is due to the US media's brief flirtations with caring about them. And even that was some years ago. But my point is this: Yum^2 !!!

More pretty people now...

Madhuri Dixit (supposedly a fine actress. and you know how I feel 'bout those)
Priyanka Chopra (soon to star in a film where she murders her 7 husbands. That's hot)

John Abraham (once rumored/campaigned for Jake's Prince of Persia)
Arjun Rampal (Kidman's co star in that Schweppe's commercial)

Would I enjoy any of these people as actors? Film Experience readers who double as Bollywood fans are the only ones who might know. Tell me. Or suggest alternatives. Maybe less popular actors who the hipsters like... the Tilda Swintons of Bollywood if you will? (Not that a Swinton can be grown in any region outside of Scotland.) Or suggest 5 movies I MUST watch so I can get started.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oscar Symposium Day 3: Big Finale Remix

Previously on the Symposium: Nathaniel was talking about Tarantino's mastery of 'The Moment' and how it excuses his messy indulgences elsewhere. As a filmmaker he's a perfect match for our DVD chapter-menu culture

Guy Lodge: I think it's a spot-on point, and I'm both intrigued and troubled by the idea of Basterds being a success story of latter-day audience inclination to edit their own movies. My problem is that, while I'm as capable as anyone else of filleting out treasurable moments -- -- "Attendez la crème!" -- from the sheer morass of stuff in the film, my brain can't blithely discard the missteps as you imply others can. For much sorrier reasons, the wincingly awful appearance of Eli Roth burns as brightly in my memory as that exquisitely extended opening sequence, so much so that one can't eclipse the other.

But I think you've latched onto a selectivity that has boosted the fortunes of a number of contenders this year besides Basterds: everyone has cut out and stuck the 'Married Life' sequence of Up into their cinematic scrapbooks, but who really wants the rest? Precious, whatever your take on it, is made for mental re-editing -- Joe Klotz's baffling nomination notwithstanding.

Tim Robey: What we're basically saying here is that a lot of these movies are screener-friendly. They can be browsed. And I have to say this faintly depresses me as an old-fashioned, packed-audience-on-opening-night, communal experience sort of guy. This is where I think the 3D selling point of Avatar is quite a canny ruse -- a trick to get people going back out to the movies rather than waiting for the inevitably diminished experience on their home TV -- and it's a ruse for which I have some respect. Did Cameron send out screeners for Avatar? Did he need to? To lesser extents, Up and District 9 (and to be fair, even The Blind Side) are films that audiences discovered together in their first few weeks of release, whether in a mall in Kentucky or the Odeon Leicester Square (where The Blind Side has yet to be unveiled, actually -- Sandy or no Sandy, UK distributors are understandably never in much of a hurry to release anything to do with American football. We get confused! Don't ask me what a Tight End is.)

Read the rest at Day Three of the Symposium
In which we discuss "the Ten", The Hurt Locker, Where the Wild Things Are, the scores, missing foreign films, screeners vs theatrical and wrap up this three-day party with Meryl Streep vs. Sandra Bullock and Nathaniel's favorite movie game "Re-Casting Couch"

Return and comment. It keeps the conversation going!

Random Recurrent Thought That's Bound To Lead To Disappointment

I was just innocently looking through movie photos this evening when it abruptly occurred to me (again). Adam Shankman, the man behind this year's Oscars, actually directed Michelle Pfeiffer quite recently for Hairspray. Why wouldn't he invite her deliciousness to present Best Picture at the Oscars?

And then I woke up.

I remembered that Shankman probably only reads J-14 and Teen People and keeps inviting people like Miley Cyrus and the Twilight cast to present Oscars (sigh). Just once I'd love Oscar to focus solely on true movie legends when it comes to the presenters. There are so many awards shows now. Shouldn't the Oscars be the ones with the most prestige in terms of who gets to do what?

I've bitched before about how actress-free the Best Picture announcement always is (They've never even asked Meryl Streep -- MERYL STREEP! -- to do it) so I shan't do so again. But if one of the Twilight kids get to do Best Picture instead of one of the hundreds of classic stars who have never been asked, I'm going to f***king kill someone. [/rant]

cooling down... cooling down...

Who do you think will present? Here's some otherstars that Shankman has worked with over the years whether as choreographer or director (not that they only invite people the producers are chummy with... I'm just sayin' -- he knows these people): Steve Martin, Zac Ephron and Queen Latifah (multiple projects all... and Steve's the actual host. So, maybe there's something to my sudden urge to type up all these names), John Travolta, Jennifer Lopez, Vin Diesel and Matthew McConaughey.

My Olive Branch
Whenever I freak out like this I remember that Adam Shankman has brought me much joy as a choreographer over the years. I mean, he's choreographed some moments on movie and TV that I just love. Like the Boogie Nights dance scene with Mark Wahlberg and Heather Graham (on skates!) and the Camp Chippewa hilarity in Addams Family Values and the entire musical episode of Buffy "Once More With Feeling" and Tank Girl's Busby Berkley'ish bit in the long lost era of Lori Petty and Nobody Knowing Who Naomi Watts Was...

So maybe it'll all turn out OK. Though it's very weird that a musical guy is the guy who decided to jettison those Original Songs from the broadcast.

Revised Experience: 78 Appropriate Ways to Celebrate Elizabeth Taylor's Birthday

It's Eye Candy Weekend. 8 Days until Oscar!

Be great. Be beautiful. Ride a horse. Get married. Get divorced. Act like a total diva. Wear something spectacularly sexy, preferrably white. Make people want more.

Befriend Michael Jackson. Watch Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? again. Watch National Velvet. Watch A Place in the Sun. Be highly quotable. Get married. Flaunt every piece of jewelry you own. Donate to an AIDS charity. Nurse a sick friend. Get divorced. Show everyone your wicked sense of humor. Fall in love with Montgomery Clift in glorious black and white (any of his movies will do). Ask your best friend to refer to you as "Bessie Mae" for the rest of the day. Get married. Scream "I was the slut of all time!" at the top of your lungs. Survive the loss of someone you loved no matter how hard that is to do. Pretend you've won an Oscar. And another. Drink people under the table. Love dogs. Get married. Polish her star at 6336 Hollywood Blvd. Watch Cleopatra... or at least half of it (okay, maybe a third). Get divorced. Read Elizabeth. Watch the original Father of the Bride. Get married. Get divorced. Get remarried. Get redivorced. Buy a pair of violet contact lenses. Let your passions rule you. Paint a beauty mark on your right upper jaw.

Don't take yourself too seriously. Role play "Liz and Dickie" with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Get married. Be fabulous. "Tell mama all". Name a perfume after your favorite thing. Reap abundant loot from doing so. Gain lots of weight. Watch Giant. Watch Suddenly Last Summer. Watch Reflections in a Golden Eye. Steal something from someone who reminds you of Debbie Reynolds. Descend into "erotic vagrancy"! Give them something to talk about when you leave the room. Photoshop yourself onto the cover of 14 People magazines. Invite people over and play "get the guests" or "hump the hostess", your choice. Watch The Flintstones. Watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Watch The Taming of the Shrew. Imagine how Sherilyn Fenn might play you in a TV movie. Study Kabbalah.

Be sexy. Seek a voice role on The Simpsons. Work towards making lots of "all time greatest" lists in whatever it is that you do and actually deserve the honor. Make the world a better place. Get divorced. Go to a gay bar with friends. Jump on a plane to Hawaii. Excite the tabloids. Be legendary. Have a tracheotomy. Survive pneumonia. Have a hip replaced. Have a tumor removed. Survive cancer. Throw your back out. Call yourself "Mother Courage" and mean it. Survive everything.

Best Limited Roles, Line Readings, Poster and More...

Normally I finish off the FiLM BiTCH Awards before Oscar arrives. I'll announce my gold, silver and bronze for the Oscar-like categories for the 2009 film year on Tuesday. But I've still got all these extra categories hanging over me like a dark cloud. Not that I don't love the rain they bring. My other significantly less cinematic life absorbed way too much of my time this season. Boo. So it's a race to the finish line, now. And then a few days in recuperative coma.

A few favorite Limited Roles and Line Readings...
(suggest away for fill ins -- my memory is shot!)

And with only 8 days until Oscar hits...
another theme to follow Precious day.


Posters, Trailers and Taglines
(yes, I added a trailer citation for the first time)

As always I love to hear both feedback and your own personal favorites in any of these categories. What's most important in an ad campaign for you: instantly iconic imagery, accurate representation of what's being sold, clever riffs on the theme or just plain old beauty? Maybe you require all of the above. You're so demanding!


Friday, February 26, 2010

Link You, Link Me; Link It Together, Naturally

All Things Fangirl how traditionally trained our Oscar's acting nominees? This is hot. Yay, for new coverage angles.
Towleroad My latest column: Prodigal Sons has opened (finally!) so watch for it in your city. Plus, a few more words from my Lee Daniels (Precious) interview and Kathryn Bigelow's enviable man harem.
Movies Kick Ass Jose unveils his "best of '09"
The Critical Condition helps you win your Oscar pool with the live action and animated shorts
Cinematical "How open are you moviewise?" That's a good question. We like to think all of Film Experience's readers are wide open
I Need My Fix Angelina Jolie is 'Pretty in Paris' filming The Tourist
Pop Watch post Olympic competition, Johnny Weir continues to be awesome. Speaks out for all future girlyboys. Someone give him a medal, now please.
i09 With Dollhouse wrapped, what's next for Eliza Dushku on the bigscreen?

C'est La Gêne (in French) Who is the greatest actress in the world?

Elle s'appelle Nicole Kidman
, n'est-ce pas?
Awards Daily Have you been following this whole Chartier mini-scandal?
Nick's Flick Picks YAY. Another year of Nick's Actress Project, 1944. The passage about Ingrid Bergman = Nicole Kidman is especially divine/interesting

BBC News the Olivier Award nominees over in London (home to an ever thriving theater culture) are like a laundry list of people we'd like to see in better movie roles and maybe during future Oscar seasons. Gillian Anderson, Jude Law (i.e. New Hamlet), James McAvoy, Rachel Weisz and Keira Knightley are the most famous ones. But there's still more enticements. Imelda Staunton, Eddie Redmayne, and remember Samuel West who was so bookishly bewitched bothered and bewildered by Helena Bonham-Carter's inner fire in Howards End) and Mark Rylance who, for a brief period was a go to guy for frequently naked dramas (Angels & Insects, Prospero's Books, Intimacy)? They're all nominated. What a group. Makes you want to book a longish trip to London and attend lots of shows.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oscar Symposium Day 2: (500) Basterds In the Bright Starry Loop

Nathaniel R: I led with the Reality Television problem yesterday because I'm trying to work through some, um, "personal issues". I actually snapped at two friends this week for no reason other than that something they said reminded me tangentially of reality television and how much I hate it and inbetween these outbursts I sat through the entire new episodes of Amazing Race, Project Runway and RuPaul's Drag Race on my DVR. I'm part of the problem! So I needed to binge and purge the reality television issue before moving on. My chief problem with its dominance is the samey samey ness of everything. Art thrives on variety and so often the pop culture pie -- of which the Oscars are my favorite slice -- comes in only one flavor at a time.

And Peter landed on the category that, invariably, I find the most difficult to stomach year in and year out for the exact same reason: Supporting Actor. They seem to use this category as a dumping ground for "types" even more so than the other categories. This will be three years in a row they've gone with a psychotic/charismatic killer for the win... and meanwhile they fill out the category with aging man career tributes. I won't attempt to argue that that winning threesome (Javier/Heath/Christoph) aren't worthy choices but there's something more to it than just coincidence, yes?

Psycho Killers, Qu'est-Que C'est?

Maybe this psycho-killas and revered old men category is actually a metaphor for the glamorous brutality of Hollywood -- they're always trying to kill you but if you survive for any admirable length of time they're sure to kiss your ass...

I'm stretching but anything to take my mind away from this category!

And to take my mind away from Bringing Down The House's blinged up homie --uh, thanks Tim-- because that leads me right back into The Blind Side territory. Racial landmines ahead!

Speaking of... Precious. What Tim said. But the issue of who-gets-credit, which he briefly alluded to in regards to the performances, is so fascinating here (and elsewhere). But for my money, Tilda Swinton in Julia aside, Mo'Nique gave the one performance this year that I can't even wrap my head around fully it's so titanic.

Guy Lodge: Best Supporting Actor may be a dumping ground for "types," but that's no excuse to make it a dumping ground for bad performances too, which is precisely what they've done this year. If they really found Anthony Mackie and Alfred Molina that hard to accept (despite apparently liking everything around them), perhaps they should have applied their new Best Original Song rule to this category, and curtailed the number of nominees. Because, frankly, I'd rather see a two-strong field than have to scratch my head any longer over who was actually impressed enough by Stanley Tucci's sweaty psycho kvetching, or Matt Damon's (more justifiably sweaty, at least) approximation of Afrikaner hulkiness by way of Opie, to place them at the top of their ballot. Because someone did.

Read the rest of DAY TWO
Wherein we move on to individual nominations and snubs that delighted and confused us, what makes some movies click with Oscar or miss entirely, that weird relationship in Crazy Heart and the internal conflict of Inglourious Basterds.

Then return and comment. Continue the conversation.

Modern Maestros: Christopher Nolan

Robert here, continuing my series on great contemporary directors.  In the past ten years or so the Hollywood summer blockbuster has been steadily improving in quality.  Now don't worry, there's still lots of trash reinforcing the fact that studio execs never lost a buck aiming for the lowest common denominator.  But there's been a resurgence in good big budget films (Can I say resurgence?  Was there ever a surgence?).  Christopher Nolan isn't singularly responsible for this.  Others were making good action movies before him, but he has come to represent all that can be right about blockbusters if the right director is given the right material.

Maestro: Christopher Nolan
Known For: Dark and moody thrillers and occasionally Batman.
Influences: Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, not comic books as much as you might think.
Masterpieces: High marks all around, but none yet (With my genuine apologies to those who disagree.  Let's not have that conversation again. Let's argue about Avatar instead.)
Disasters: definitely none
Better than you remember: I'm not sure I want to get caught up in the ongoing argument about how Nolan's films have compared to the hype.  Let's just say that I suspect history will remember all of his films accurately.

Box Office:The Dark Knight made a few cents here and there.  Over 533 million.
Favorite Actor: Both Christian Bale and Michael Caine have been in three films but once Inception opens, Caine will officially take the crown.

When Christopher Nolan was awarded the Batman franchise, reaction was hopeful and surprised.  But in fact this wasn't a new studio tactic.  Finding a promising new filmmaker and signing them to a franchise deal has always been part of the process. Rumor has it the Coens were originally offered Batman after Blood SimpleBurton fit the aesthetic so he eventually got the call.  Bryan Singer was courted after The Usual Suspects and though hardly new, one has to assume Hollywood had been ignoring Sam Raimi for decades before it finally discovered him and gave him Spider-Man.  But two things made the Batman/Nolan match more exciting.  First was the utter state of disrepair the (possibly most beloved and iconic of all comic franchises) franchise was in.  And second was just how closely the Batman myth aligned itself with the themes that Nolan loved most.  Nolan makes movies about desperate men and the moments that drive them to extremes.  In most cases it's the death of a loved one (wives or parents) but more than that I think it's a sudden and violent realization of the chaos present in the world.  This often results in the "rebirth" of an individual.  Bruce Wayne is reborn as Batman, Harvey Dent as Two-Face.  Leonard from Memento is, in a way, continually reborn every few minutes.  The Prestige also delves into the topic of continual rebirth but I won't spoil it.

 Two sides of the same coin.

Tied into this is another favorite Nolan topic: the duality of man.  Characters in Nolan films are often reflections of each other.  Consider Batman and his Rogues.  Both Ras Al Ghoul and Batman believe the world to be full of evil, but one thinks the solution is saving it, the other destroying.  Two-Face is another parallel.  He's reflection of what Bruce Wayne could have become if his tragedy propelled him toward evil.  The Joker though isn't so much a reflection of anyone as much as he is a personification of that ever-present chaos in the world.  This phenomenon isn't just limited to Batman.  The two men in The Prestige are mirror images of each other surging toward the same goal, one with emotional abandon the other with precise calculation.  There are further examples of man's duality in The Prestige, but I won't spoil it.

It's this perfect match of man and material that has resulted in such success.  But there have been other factors too.  Much has been made of Nolans insistence on realism and how it has served his films well.  Of course any film where a man dresses up as a bat isn't realistic but his determination toward a realistic universe has allowed the strange and supernatural to be that much more clearly punctuated.  Other comic book films like Spider-Man or Iron Man (both very good) exist in comic book reality and the difference is noticable.  Some have noted that Nolan's action sequences and plots are often too opaque.  But I maintain that audiences really aren't adverse to elements of mystery or confusion (people are still watching Lost aren't they?) as long as the excitement level stays high.

There's every reason to believe that Nolan will keep the excitement level high.  His next film, Inception is among the most anticipated of this year.  And it was recently announced that he'll be overseeing a new Superman film and directing a third Batman.  It's still something of an unknown whether Hollywood will heed the right message from Nolan's success.  Thus far they seem to have wrongly interpreted it to mean everything needs a "reboot."  And Nolan's films (as is now the case with all big budget pictures) must go through a prolonged series of internet-fueled stages (hype, backlash against the hype, backlash against the backlash, and finally acceptance).  All of that should be secondary to the movies themselves which remain solid and entertaining.  If Nolan really does come to represent the state of the Summer Blockbuster I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be perfectly happy with that.

Precious Day: A Conversation With Lee Daniels

With 10 days until Oscar, it's time for theme days. Today's special: Precious.

A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to speak with director Lee Daniels of Precious fame. He was in the middle of a commute from one campaign destination to another. He's not running for public office but Best Director (though that's nearly our favorite sort of public office, don'cha know. What's more public than the Oscars?). From roughly October through February, the Oscar grind devours people: festivals, speaking engagements, parties, premieres, awards shows, travel. I imagine you get through it by way of adrenaline, the psychological boost of a coveted nomination from your peers (or the chance of one prior to January), and sheer force of will. A good sense of humor can't hurt. Daniels definitely had one, laughing at the connection glitches we had and riffing on misheard words that come with interviews on the go-go-go.

Jan 2009 and Jan 2010: Lee and Gabby at Sundance and the DGA event

It's late February 2010 and he's been pushing Precious, in one way or another, for years now. In our chat he amiably conveyed (elated) exhaustion. Though he noted a strong desire to "get my life back in order, get my head clear" before the next project, he was definitely in high spirits. If he were an actual politician I could only imagine that he'd be great at campaign promises, handshaking and kissing babies.

Here are some highlights from our conversation.

[He had just spoken with a university cinema class]
Nathaniel: Do you suddenly feel more authoritative about it after all the Oscar attention? Like 'I AM AN OSCAR NOMINEE!'
Lee: [Laughter] Here's the thing. I don't feel more authoritative but they seem to feel that I have more authority.

[On directing actors]
Nathaniel: What do you feel you did to pull that amazement out of them? Mo'Nique's performance... I still can't wrap my head around it.
Lee: I think there was a level of very deep trust. Trust is very hard to come by. Actors have been burned by directors that um... well, inevitably they're guarded. It's rare that an actor trusts and opens their soul up to a director. I think that's what Mo'Nique did. And Gabby didn't know any better [Laughter]
Nathaniel: She hadn't had the opportunity to be burned yet!
Lee: There was a deep respect and trust there. It was a magical experience. I hope to have it again.

[On the campaign trail with the directors]
Nathaniel: I think it was Quentin Tarantino that said all of you director nominees were spending so much time together you could start a rock band?
It's really sick. It's like being in production with these clowns. I love them. We've gotten to become almost like a frat pack. They're terrific people. Like, I can't even be upset if someone wins outside of me. I can't believe I'm even saying that. But that's how I feel because I've grown so fond and respectful of each of them. We started out wanting to win -- I certainly do want to win -- but I'd be okay if any of my other posse wins because they deserve it. They've been so supportive of me and I've learned so much from them on this journey. It's an amazing once in a lifetime experience. Well, I don't know if it's once in a lifetime. I hope not!

[On weathering the backlash]
Nathaniel: ... if there's too few representations of one type of thing it takes on extra weight rather than just being a movie. Precious becomes a Black Movie rather than a movie.
I'm sort of over it. I'm over it being... At first, you really want to have people talking so it doesn't matter. But then it spreads like a virus almost. You find yourself defending your work. I don't have to defend my work.
Nathaniel: It's already thematically provocative enough without having to deal with being a representation of race. Child abuse... that's plenty to discuss. It's such a potent movie that I kind of wish that people wouldn't put all that extra weight on it.
Lee: The people that continue to... I think they have issues of their own. I think we have, as African-Americans, we really strive to be Obama. And in those aspirations we forget the Preciouses of the world. We don't want to be a part of that. We don't want to know that. We don't want to see that. We don't want to be reminded of that. Guess what? We are that. That's where we're coming from. If we're not from the projects we're a generation away from the projects. No African-American is not a generation away from the projects, from that world. You can't really grow as people until you understand yourself and see yourself. So, that bothers me. It bothers me more that I have been reduced to even articulating those thoughts.

[On the Production Design by Roshelle Berliner... He was very pleased I brought it up, since it's one of the technical elements of the movie that people haven't been discussing.]
Nathaniel: The reason I bring it up is that shot of the stairwell inside the apartment when Mary is yelling up at Precious. That shot! I just think the production design was very smart. Did they come to you with these ideas or did you find a place?
Lee: I knew exactly what I wanted. Everything in that apartment was replicated from a hodgepodge of apartments that I lived in and grew up in Philadelphia. In Harlem and in New York -- especially in the projects -- its hard to find an upstairs/downstairs apartment.
Nathaniel: I live in Harlem so that two-story thing was shocking to me but I loved the art direction of the apartment.

[On Gabourey Sidibe as Precious]
Nathaniel: One of the things I like most about the movie is how small, in a way, Claireece's character arc is: she doesn't have to conquer the world she just has to learn to read and step away from that environment. That reads like this huge emotional triumph -- which it is! -- but in the grand scheme of movie plots, so to speak, that's really small. Since she was a new actress, did you have to talk to her a lot about the modulation of the arc?
Lee: No, no. Complete natural... she was a complete natural. What we had to do was just find it. She's so good that she found it and then some. We didn't shoot in chronological order. Precious grows as a person that's not to a person that is literate. And she grows as a spirit because of Ms. Rain and the girls. In my head I had the arc from A to Z sort of planned out. Gabby doesn't know Precious and that's what's so beautiful about the acting that she was able to find her; Her voice was deeper, her posture was slouched, she walked slower, she moved her eyes barely. And then slowly she blossomed. I'm not good at order, my memory is pretty shot, and so Gabby would remember exactly where this girl was supposed to be at exactly the right time. You can't do it alone. It really was the two of us finding her.

~the end~

And find her they did... and they uncovered Oscar nominations, too. Those are often tricky to find. Congratulations to the cast and crew of Precious.

Lee Daniels' next project is rumored to be Selma which may star Robert De Niro as Governor George Wallace in Alabama during the struggle for civil rights. Generally speaking, I'm not big on bios or true stories, but I'm curious. Shadowboxer, Daniel's first, was a bizarre film but it was idiosyncratic in ways that made you wonder where the 'man behind the curtain' might be coming from. Precious was obviously a huge step forward artistically and career wise. Will you be there for round three?

Actress Psychic. Apologies And Winners

So for two years I ran a fun little contest called "Actress Psychic". It was going swimmingly with more contestants each year trying to predict the Best Actress Oscar shortlist a whole year in advance. But the hugely painstaking spreadsheets and enormous time commitment -- which compiled points throughout the year for various achievements like precursor attention, magazine covers, festival attention and box office, finally done me in on the third edition.

I biffed it this year big time just as soon as I could have possibly biffed it. Gutterball! Or whatever sports analogy you'd like for FAIL. But in a rare feat of beating a deadline I had last night, I had some time to at least pour over the original entries and "guess" about who the winners should be without those pesky actual point totals.

I highlighted the actual correct guesses in gold and highlighted the suggested nominees that I'm guessing would have accrued some points (on the basis of other films they were pushing or precursor and general media attention) in turquoise.

The Gold Medal goes to Steve B
He correctly guessed three nominees a year in advance: Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and even Gabourey Sidibe for Precious. But here's why he wins: He didn't waste his other place holders. Both Saoirse Ronan and Penelope Cruz would certainly have both accrued some points for staying in the game in one way or another as the season progressed.

The Silver Medal goes to Pat Grat
Pat correctly guessed three nominees a year in advance: Helen Mirren, Mulligan and Streep. The other spots were wasted on Hilary Swank's Amelia and Michelle Pfeiffer's Chéri who both bombed at the box office and were no-shows all throughout the season. Those final two predictions were literally the most popular of all in our contest... which serves as a healthy (annual) reminder that "sounds good on paper" doesn't always work for the Academy once it's on the screen. So when you're making your predictions for the 2010/2011 race remember. It takes more than "sounds good on paper!"

The Bronze Medal goes to Georgie
I'm not sure the point totals would have totally born this third place finish out but he correctly guessed two nominees, and all three of the other choices would have definitely won points (Cruz nominated for a different film in another category, Mirren albeit for the wrong film and Saoirse Ronan whose Lovely Bones were probably in 6th or 7th place all told for that Oscar shortlist given how surprisingly well she did in the precursors)

Honorable Mentions
Adelutza, Fabrizzio, T Nelson, and BJK predicted four actual nominated women with their five-wide guesswork. Too bad they didn't choose the right categories or the right films for the most part. But still: 4! That's way better than I did this year that far in advance. And finally, bow down to pmcat7 who only called Meryl Streep correctly BUT is the only contestant who saw Sandra Bullock coming. But cat's prescription should still be checked because the ballot says All About Steve (Razzie nominee!) rather than The Blind Side (Oscar!). But that's still a glorious reminder that no one knows anything but sometimes the answer can be found in unlikely places.

And isn't Oscar crazy? That's why we continue to love and obsess over that shiny dude 12 months out of every year.

How Many Times Have You Seen _____________?

I'm curious. Some Oscar seasons seem better attended than others if you know what I mean. Please answer ALL the polls so we have an accurate sense of how box office and DVD and general hoopla correlate with you, reader, you. How familiar are you with Avatar, Precious, The Blind Side, District 9, Up in the Air, A Serious Man, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Up and The Hurt Locker? If you're just lurking, why not click some buttons? You'll be done in 20 seconds. It's easy. And oh so revealing while still being anonymous. Ah the joys of internet movie addiction.


Precious Day: What Will Gabby & Mo'Nique Wear?

<-- the Precious ladies at Sundance (even Sapphire!) 13 long months ago

Fashion rundowns of awards events tend to ignore the plus sized ladies (and the plus age ladies) but why should we? Mo'Nique hasn't been attending every event this season --thankfully the misplaced bizarre fury about that died down -- but when she shows up she aims to impress, baby. Gabby, on the other hand, has been working the campaign trail so hard one wonders how she's managing it and still effervescent through all. Maybe they have her 4 hour sleep rations?

Here's a brief history...


From left to right, January through September: Gabby hits a movie premiere (not her own) before fame truly hits; Monique attends the NAACP and the Essence Awards after Sundance (before all the "she won't campaign!" business hits which coincides with her busy summer touring and working on her new talk show); Gabby enjoys the spotlight (still a fresh feeling) at the Cannes premiere in a busy black evening gown; Gabby in bright orange for the TIFF premiere (not an easy color for red carpets. Be warned!) and Gabby at another premiere (not her own). I like those two dress down looks and I'm wondering if maybe she should approach the Oscars with more of a youthful funky spirit?


From October 2009 to February 2010, it seems like Gabby showed up to virtually everything: film festivals, special galas, multiple premieres, talk shows, guild awards. I bet she logged as many miles in four months as Up in the Air's Ryan Bingham himself! Don't you kinda dig that Morticia-ish dress on top left? Go Fug Yourself wrote up her white dress from BAFTA on the bottom right. Gabby's fallback color: purple. Might we see her in it at the Oscars? Hmmm, she's never worn it to the biggest most glitziest events.


Whatever will they wear to the THE MAIN EVENT?

Care to make a prediction? Often times -- and this has precious little to do with Precious -- I fantasize about the Oscars being a costume party for the nominees, wherein they have to come in character. I don't really wish this on Gabby, since it's so refreshing to see her bubbly and happy as Gabby rather than Claireece. But part of me can't get enough of Mo'Nique in that hideous floral onesie and part of me thinks that her final ensemble, recalls the turban and fur wrap of a Grand Actress Throwback as much as it can for a movie set in 80s Harlem. Fitting rather since Mary Jones is Acting her way through that social worker showdown. As is Mo'Nique.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oscar Symposium Day 1: 'I'm an Oscar Winner, Get Me Outta Here'

Nathaniel: Welcome to the 5th annual Oscar Symposium. Each year I invite a handful of smart movie types into my virtual home to decipher, debate and occassionally defenstrate the choices made by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. This year's illustrious panel unintentionally mimics the general geography of AMPAS (Los Angeles / New York / London) if not, one feels free to assume, their psychology. Please welcome: Peter Knegt, Guy Lodge, Karina Longworth, Tim Robey and Sasha Stone.

But we aren't hear to predict.

Who doesn't know that Jeff Bridges, Mo'Nique, Kathryn Bigelow, and Christoph Waltz are taking Oscar to bed on March 7th? The Academy received its Bachelor of Arts And Sciences from The School of Redundancy School.

We're here to gab.

Here's a kick off. Adam Shankman of Hairspray, So You Think You Can Dance and Bringing Down the House fame, who is producing the show this year, has promised to play up the horse race aspect of the show, declaring that the Oscars are really "the best dressed reality show competition on the air". Never mind my distaste for the ubiquity of reality television... if we're really going to play it like that, let's play it like that. Shouldn't they have started filming the potential nominees months before the show, sending cameras to invade their every private moment (er, wait. that's called "paparazzi") and watch the triumph or heartbreak when they do or don't make the finals? A So You Think You Can Act? face/off might be the only way Meryl Streep can ever win a third Oscar, so let's do it. And if we're playing it like this, why can't we vote people off? You're the judging panel... so who are you jettisoning in the first episode, and who gets a "raise your game or go home" stern warning?

Guy Lodge: You break my heart with your talk of sure things, Mr. Rogers. Does this mean that I should withdraw my bet on a Lovely Bones write-in sweep of every category, including a Gordon E. Sawyer Award for the technological achievement of Susan Sarandon’s wig collection? Clearly, I haven’t been keeping up. It’s hard, after all, what with the dearth of film awards reporting on the web. Someone should really create a site for it. I’m sure it’d do quite well.

"how'd I get dragged into this?!?"

Read the rest of DAY ONE
Topics include but are not limited to: nominees we're not comfortable with, the soulless campaign machine, what the Oscars are *about* and potshots at Nine, James Cameron, The Blind Side and Invictus.

CONTEST WINNER! (And Oscarless Greats)

One of television's best annual traditions, Turner Classic Movies "31 Days of Oscar" (now showing!) sponsored a fine contest for us. I was able to choose 5 DVDs to give away to one lucky reader. I chose five films that Oscar sorta loved (multiple nominations) but couldn't settle down with (major losses) and I asked all contestants to write a note about the Oscarless situation that bugs them most. The winner and runners up were drawn randomly.

  • 5 DVD PACK: Double Indemnity (1944), A Star is Born (1954), The Umbrellas of Cherbourgh (1964), The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) and They Shoot Horses Don't They (1969)
And the Winner is...
SAM in Texas
. Even if I hadn't drawn randomly, I would have had Sam's back on his favorite "snub" choice. Here's what he has to say...
My great Oscar snub is also my favorite actress: Kathleen Turner. Only one nomination? Really? Hilary Swank has two Oscars and Kathleen Turner only has one nomination? I'd like to see Swank tackle Peggy Sue and Romancing the Stone and Prizzi's Honor and make them all hits. If I were the Oscar God, I would have nominated Kathleen for Body Heat, a film that almost turned me straight (thank God for William Hurt's nakedness). If she can make a gay like me want her, she's a brilliant actress.
The Runners Up...
who'll receive an Oscar party pack from Turner Classic Movies are DAVID in North Carolina and CHRISTINE in Massachussets. They both picked two of Oscar's most frequently nominated but never winning players.

David says:
There are many celebrities that should have won an Oscar, but actor that comes to mind is (Sir) Richard Burton. Not only was he such an amazing talent, a ferociously brilliant actor, but also the fact that he was one half of the most famous couple in the world, or at least the 60's, while he was married to the great Elizabeth Taylor, cemented his status as one of Hollywood's biggest/greatest leading men. His iconic performances in such film classics as "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold", "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?", "Night Of The Iguana", and "The Longest Day" still linger on in the mind.
Christine picks the woman who shares Deborah Kerr's Oscar record for an actress (6 noms / 0 wins). (Yes, there were women who had it worse than Glenn Close and Julianne Moore)
It's probably too obvious, but I'm going to go with Thelma Ritter as an Oscar nominee who should have won at least once. Her line delivery alone ought to have clenched it for a lot of her films ("What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end!"). In addition, she was one of the last great old-school character actors, and it would have been nice to see her win for all of the Edward Everett Horton's and Iris Adrian's of the world.

I want to thank everyone who entered. It was great fun to read your entries and certainly provided food for thought. How is it that some people just can't get lucky with Oscar?

Here's a few fun bits from other contest entries. I didn't include any Julianne Moore quotes but you are correct in guessing that she was the most popular answer to this "i hate that they've never won!" query. Give or take Alfred Hitchock.

Robert on cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki
He utilized only natural light with a constantly moving camera for a period epic, and not only were the results not a disaster, The New World ended up arguably the most beautiful film of 2005.
Joseph on Joan Allen (another popular answer to this question)
an Oscar for her heartbreaking turn as the resilient Elizabeth Proctor (The Crucible) would've been really nice...And might I add that she's also kind of awesome in Death Race!
Sean on cinematographer Roger Deakins
I even watch The Man Who Wasn't There on mute!
Erica on Peter O'Toole
Lawrence of Arabia, for crissakes. Oh, sure, he has an honorary one, but those are basically Hollywood's silent excuse, both acknowledging that 'you probably deserved it more than anyone else of any year ever, but now you're too old, so please enjoy this montage of better days'.