Sunday, February 28, 2010

Crazy Hearts in the Air for Precious Performances! Nine!

It is with great honor that I direct you to this Sunday's edition of StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown. Looking at this year's batch of Oscar nominees, the result is kind of...inevitable. You'll see it on there, of course, but for me, it was no contest. Thanks, of course, to StinkyLulu for once again graciously inviting me to take part in this most exciting of Smackdowns.

I wanted to see how my ratings for now compared to my initial reactions.

My lowest score, one heart, went to Maggie Gyllenhaal. As I wrote:
Maggie Gyllenhaal is fine, playing a vulnerable young woman who always seems to be attracted to the wrong guy. She does not want to love Bridges, but she falls for him, and takes the risk. Sometimes, though, she looks like she wishes she could do more. It doesn't help that the editing, or maybe the screenplay itself, seems to cut most developments, including what attracts her to Bad Blake.

Two hearts to Anna Kendrick, whose nomination still flummoxes me. When I first saw her movie:
Kendrick has certain moments where she shines, reminding me why I like her in Rocket Science and tolerate her in the Twilight movies. But her Natalie Keener is shrill, whiny, and cliched. Some of her dialogue, God help me, sounds like lines written for the middle daughter in Dan in Real Life. As for that breakdown scene midway through the film? Yikes. Talk about overplaying the comedy. She is the least consistent out of all the actors, and there seems to be no throughline for her character. It's all moments. While I didn't hate her, and while I definitely (DEFINITELY) still love the movie, Kendrick's Natalie gets a shake of the head from me.

Penelope Cruz, upon reflection, got three hearts. As I said in my review of her film:
Penelope Cruz is, naturally, sexy and funny, and also surprisingly vulnerable as the mistress. "Call from the Vatican" is a hot number as it is, but Cruz just sizzles. Bring the vapors.

I gave four hearts to Vera Farmiga. My initial reaction:
Vera Farmiga is smart, sexy and confident as Alex, who describes herself to Ryan Bingham as "you, but with a vagina." You love her. You must. I certainly fell for her, and so of course I'm rooting for the coupling all throughout. There are sweet moments between her and Clooney that are charmingly understated. Farmiga gives one of the most relatable, believable performances of the year.

Of course, in lock-step with the Globes, Critics and SAG, my five hearts were awarded to Mo'Nique:
Mo'Nique is her mother Mary. Ho. Ly. Crap.... Mo' the mom from Hell. I had chills. Her first monologue, raw and abusive, dropped my jaw. Her final monologue gave me goosebumps. Mark these two on your ballots, people; they're in.

I think my opinion of Gyllenhaal lowers the more I reflect on the movie, whereas after a second viewing, Mo'Nique just gets better and better. Please also note: this is the first time I've ran th whole gamut of hearts. An interesting year, this.

But why read all that when you can just see what the Smackdowners have to say?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Casting Coup: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

It's incredible to think that Hag Horror actually had a place of respectability within the film community. It isn't always that an Oscar Winner can also claim Cult Status, but it happens. So before Who Slew Auntie Roo?, Strait Jacket, Night Watch and Berserk!, Hag Horror began with a bang, as well as a question: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

I recently wrote about my own relationship with this film. Suffice to say, it's one of my favorites, right up there with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in the genre of Ponderous B&W Films Starring Wrinkled Women Made in The Sixties. And since I've recently watched it, it's a natural candidate for a Casting Coup.

What can be said about this film that hasn't been said before? By me? For one, Jack L. Warner was completely against the idea of making a movie starring two actresses past their prime. This is especially interesting because, as much as we can bellyache about ageism and sexism in today's Hollywood, at the time of the film's release, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were, respectively....54 AND 57 YEARS OLD. By those standards, the following actresses are ripe for hag horror: Joan Allen, Kim Basinger, Geena Davis, Whoopi Goldberg, Amy Irving, Mary Steenburgen, Mary McDonnell, Oprah Winfrey and Kathleen Turner.

Actually, I guess Irving, Basinger, Davis and Turner really don't have the careers they had in their youth. BUT STILL.

Baby Jane was nominated for two BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globes, and the DGA Award. AFI named Baby Jane Hudson the 44th Greatest Movie Villain in 2003. The film was featured, very effectively, in House of Wax, and even referenced on an episode of "Seinfeld". It also led to a successful follow-up, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, which went on to be nominated for seven Oscars. In 1991, the Redgrave sisters starred in a made-for-TV remake, with Vanessa as Blanche and Lynn as Baby Jane.

Before all that, though, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was nominated for five Academy Awards. Joseph D. Kelly, the head of the Seven Arts-Warner Bros. sound department, was nominated for Best Sound, losing to John Cox's work at Shepperton for Lawrence of Arabia. Ernest Haller's eerie Cinematography lost to Jean Bourgoin and Walter Wottitz double-teaming for The Longest Day in the Black-and-White category. I've not seen The Longest Day, but it better have some impressive camera work! Victor Buono, a newcomer to film, would later become known as the villainous King Tut on "Batman" starring Adam West; that night, however, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, which went to Ed Begley for Sweet Bird of Youth. Bette Davis should have won for Best Actress, but the award went to Anne Bancroft's admittedly strong work in The Miracle Worker. Joan Crawford, furious at her being snubbed, offered to accept on Bancroft's behalf if she didn't show. Well, Joan got her chance, and reportedly snapped to Bette, "Out of my way!" as she made her way to the stage.

But it won! Yes, Baby Jane, the grand guignol of hag horror, the movie where parakeets are murdered, maids are hammered, and a heavily made-up Bette Davis dances around a beach, Baby Jane won an Academy Award! In the category of Costume Design - Black-and-White, Norma Koch reigned supreme. She even beat out seven-time champion Edith Head's designs for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance! And when you see Bette Davis in outfits like this: can see the appeal.

Besides, it's a subject that's still relevant. In the movie, Jane is a great child star, but no one respects her as a legitimate actress when she grows up. She takes to drinking, then tries to stage a comeback after forty years...a comeback which involves her wearing the wigs and costumes of her childhood. It's the cautionary Child Star Tale that we all know. Look at its effects on people like Brad Renfro or Lindsay Lohan. Look at the dangers of parents managing their careers, like the Culkins, Gary Coleman's family, or Dina Lohan. It's a subject we know all too well.

But how on Earth does one go about recasting this gem? Really, it all stems from the idea that older actresses should be BEGGING to take these roles. My God, they're the juiciest fun an actress could ever have! The only ones disqualified would be Judi Dench, because she did Notes on a Scandal, and Maggie Smith, because of Keeping Mum. But holy hell, older actresses playing older actresses trying to recapture their youth? YES, PLEASE!

That said, things are being done a little differently for this Coup. Read on...

Who is He: The girls' father. Finding that his younger daughter, Jane, had golden hair and an ability for song-and-dance, he trotted her out to make money as a STAR. He was a promoter and manager first, a father fourth or fifth. Any frustration he took out on Blanche.

Originally played by:

Dave Willock (Revenge of the Creature, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte)

My Choice: Indie Spirit Nominee for Best Actor (Happiness)

Dylan Baker (Thirteen Days, Trick 'r Treat)
Skeezy schemer with a shit-eating grin. That's a face that belongs in a straw boater and pinstripes.

Who is She: The mother of Edwin. This English expatriate taught her son how to play music. She does not mind that he still lives at home, she's just glad to have her precious little boy around her.

Originally played by:

Marjorie Bennett (Man of a Thousand Faces, One Hundred and One Dalmatians)

My Choice:

Julia McKenzie (Shirley Valentine, Bright Young Things)
She's played slightly daffy women before. Besides that, though, she humanizes even the smallest of roles. Remember her brief but memorable turn as Dame Judi's sister in Notes on a Scandal?

Who is She: Neighbor to the Hudson sisters. Mrs. Bates is a big fan of Blanche's movies, and often sends her flowers and fan letters. Though put off by Baby Jane's bitter rudeness, Mrs. Bates is always trying to be neighborly.

Originally played by:

Anna Lee (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, In Like Flint)

My Choice: Indie Spirit Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Woman Thou Art Loosed)

Loretta Devine (I Am Sam, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done)

Who is She: Maid to the Hudson sisters. She is great friends with Blanche, but fears that Jane is slowly losing her mind. Elvira and Blanche plan on selling the house, getting Jane help, and moving to a smaller place. She only comes once a week, so she is shocked to discover the torture that has been building since her last visit.

Originally played by:

Maidie Norman (Written on the Wind, Airport '77)

My Choice: Indie Spirit Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Lone Star)

Elizabeth Pena (Transamerica, D-War)

Who is He: Dehlia's son. Edwin answers an ad in the paper looking for a pianist; it is Jane, seeking an accompanist for her comeback. But Edwin is not at all the charming young Englishman he makes himself out to be. He, too, is a drunk; worse, he's a scoundrel, exploiting older women's tenderness to make money off of them. He is not interested in Jane's comeback or friendship. He just wants her money. This is something flirtatious, sad Jane never realizes.

Originally played by: Academy Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?)

Victor Buono (Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Beneath the Planet of the Apes)

My Choice: BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The Queen), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Frost/Nixon)

Michael Sheen (The Damned United, The Twilight Saga: New Moon)
"As for that silly Mr. Blair with his Cheshire Cat grin..." He does have a disarming charm to him, doesn't he? One that could hide his ulterior motives. I give him the role of Edwin because he has played schemers and charmers before, and he could have a ball with it.

Who are They: The Hudson Sisters grew up in each other's shadow. As children, Baby Jane was a vaudeville star, with Blanche has the plain ol' brunette. As they grew older and went into film, Blanche's beauty and talent guaranteed her success in Hollywood; Jane couldn't act her way through an Ed Wood film, but Blanche always saw to it that Jane made a movie a year. The switch hurt Jane, and she took to drunken bitterness. Forty years later, after a car accident at the front gate of their home, Blanche is paralyzed, bound to a wheelchair, while Jane walks about in full makeup, caking more on every day. "Sister, sister, oh so fair; Why is there blood all over your hair?"

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner for Best Actress (Dangerous, Jezebel), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Foreign Actress (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress in a Drama (All About Eve, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?) and

ALSO: Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy (Pocketful of Miracles)
Academy Award Winner for Best Actress (Mildred Pierce), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Foreign Actress (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress in a Drama (Sudden Fear)

Bette Davis (Now, Voyager, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte) as Baby Jane Hudson
Joan Crawford (The Unknown, Grand Hotel) as Blanche Hudson

My Choice:
Now, here's where things get a little different. I always like to post my definite performers, the ones I would hire first. But I have to admit, that when it comes to Baby Jane, I would hold final auditions. Provided these women would audition, of course. So, there's still the Two Hollywood Stars as Jane and Blanche, but I have two choices for each.

The Nominee Sisters:
Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress (Peggy Sue Got Married), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy (Romancing the Stone, Prizzi's Honor)
ALSO: Academy Award/Golden Globe/Indie Spirit/SAG Award Nominee for Best Actress [in a Drama] (The Contender), SAG Award Nominee for Best Actress and Best Ensemble/Academy Award/BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Nixon), Academy Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (The Crucible)

Kathleen Turner (Body Heat, Marley & Me) as Baby Jane Hudson
Joan Allen (The Notebook, The Upside of Anger) as Blanche Hudson
Turner is an actress who, though still respected, was better known in the 1980s. Her sole Oscar nomination came in 1986. Even on stage, her successful, lauded work in The Graduate was ignored by the Tony committee, while she went home a bridesmaid the night she was nominated for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Meanwhile, Allen is always finding new areas of success. The last of her three Oscar noms was in 2001, she won a Tony in 1988, and she has that new TV Movie Georgia O'Keeffe which garnered some awards recognition. Seeing these two play off each other would be a dream come true.


The Winner Sisters:
Academy Award/Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress [in a Drama] (Sophie's Choice) and Best Supporting Actress (Kramer vs. Kramer), BAFTA Award/Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress [in a Musical/Comedy] (The French Lieutenant's Woman), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy (The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia) and Best Supporting Actress (Adaptation), SAG Award Winner for Best Actress (Doubt), Hollmann Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress (A Prairie Home Companion)
ALSO: Academy Award/SAG Award Winner for Best Actress (Dead Man Walking), BAFTA Award Winner for Best Actress (The Client), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress in a Drama and Musical/Comedy (Bull Durham, White Palace, Thelma & Louise, Lorenzo's Oil, Dead Man Walking, Stepmom) and Best Supporting Actress (Igby Goes Down), Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (In the Valley of Elah, Speed Racer)

Meryl Streep (Marvin's Room, Prime) as Baby Jane Hudson
Susan Sarandon (Atlantic City, The Lovely Bones) as Blanche Hudson
Streep loves chewing the scenery while still giving dimension to her characters, so Baby Jane would be excellent for her. Sarandon is better in quieter roles, and that sex kitten voice would be purr-fect for the more soothing Blanche. I know Meryl has a smooth voice, too, but she also loes doing new voices.

Which of these pairings would you like to see? Or do you have some ideas of your own? Gimme the feedback below!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Casting Coup: Goldfinger

James Bond is rarely respected by Oscar. Since 1962, the movies have received eight Academy Award nominations, including three for 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me (the last for 1981's For Your Eyes Only), and only two wins. That last win was in -- wait for it -- 1966, honoring 1965's Thunderball, the FOURTH Bond film. Now, I know many consider the Bond franchise to be "just" action flicks, and even Cubby Broccoli said, the movies weren't "art, just entertainment". But holy shit: 2006's Casino Royale, Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, all the songs from From Russia with Love to Moonraker, David Arnold's scores since 1997, John Barry's scores from Dr. No to The Man with the Golden Gun, visual effects, sound....

What does make sense, at least, is that first nomination. Remember how huge The Dark Knight was and everyone was clamoring for it to win awards? It was nominated at the PGA, DGA and WGA awards, won two of its six Oscar nominations, and when it became the second highest-grossing movie of all time (not adjusted for inflation), it also became the most successful Batman movie ever. It absolutely defined the year in pop culture for 2008. It wasn't the first Batman movie, but it was the biggest and the best.

Likewise, in 1964, Bond mania reached its peak with the release of Goldfinger. This was the movie that started the merchandising awesomeness of the Bond films, including its relationship with toy car makers Corgi. The Aston Martin DB5, the most popular Bond vehicle of all time, made its debut here, sending sales of the car skyrocketing. In two weeks, it recouped its $3 million budget. It's also the Bond film with the most iconic henchman, most bombastic song, most (believably) action-packed finale...and, of course, the beginnings of absolutely amazing chick names with the introduction of Pussy Galore. Not to make a pun, but it is the gold standard by which other Bond films are judged.

So it was that it became the first Bond film to find itself nominated at the Academy Awards, winning in the sole category where it was honored: Best Effects - Sound Effects. Now, this is interesting, because it's a category that no longer exists. In 1965, they had Best Sound, Best Effects - Sound Effects, and Best Effects - Visual Effects. The category for Best Sound Effects was added the year before, and lasted until 1968. In the 1970s, it was mainly a Special Achievement Award, before becoming Best Sound Effects Editing from 1981 to 1999. Only in the last decade did it become the Best Sound Editing category we know and like well enough. Goldfinger is a deserved winner in this category, too. Just the laser and the hum of Ft. Knox alone are evidence enough. In fact, the entire section within Ft. Knox, where Bond battles Oddjob, is masterful in its sound work.

Now, Bond is a familiar face at the Casting Coups for The Silver Screening Room. This past June, I cast Diamonds Are Forever, Moonraker and Live and Let Die. In addition, I had a master list of the Bond regulars. This included Michael Gambon as M, Claudie Blakley as Moneypenny, Josh Brolin as Felix Leiter and Chiwetel Ejiofor as James Bond. Some would consider it criminal to recast Goldfinger: where can I get another Gert Frobe or Honor Blackman? But the real crime, of course, would be ignoring one of the most iconic films in all of cinema. Wouldn't you agree?

Who is He: The head of a large crime syndicate. Goldfinger brings him and others to plot the invasion of Fort Knox. Midnight pledges his cooperation and men to Goldfinger in exchange for a payment of gold bricks. His loyalty is repaid later when he, like the others, is gassed by Goldfinger. In the movie, that is. In the book, he goes with Goldfinger to help with Operation Grand Slam.

Originally played by:

Bill Nagy (A Countess from Hong Kong, You Only Live Twice)

My Choice:

Keith David (Armageddon, The Princess and the Frog)
A smooth talker with an imposing presence, he could quickly telegraph the power, pride, and gullibility of this brief role. One of my favorite character actors, too.

Who is He: In the film, he is Mr. Simmons; in the novel, he is Junius Du Pont, who met Bond at Casino Royale. In both cases, he is losing card games to Auric Goldfinger, and it is he who introduces 007 to the Golden Gangster. He suspects something dishonest, and asks Bond to investigate.

Originally played by:

Austin Willis (The Mouse That Roared, The Boston Strangler)

My Choice:

Frank Sivero (Goodfellas, The Wedding Singer)
Another reliable character actor. It's a simple role, albeit one that allows for a lot of glad-handing. Sivero can pull off the "buddy, buddy, help me, buddy" aspect of the role. He brings that New York attitude, and that's what Du Pont or Simmons or somebody needs.

Who is He: One of the gangsters Goldfinger invites to his Kentucky ranch to plan Operation Grand Slam. Solo is the only one who won't go with the plan, so Goldfinger allows him to leave. By way of DEAD! In the book, he has an "accidental" fall down the stairs, and his name is Helmut M. Springer. In the novel, he is shot while riding in the backseat of a car, which is then crushed at a junkyard. Advantage: movie.

Originally played by:

Martin Benson (The King and I, Cleopatra)

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Nixon)

Paul Sorvino (Romeo + Juliet, Repo!: The Genetic Opera)
As the only other notable gangster of the story, I wanted someone who already has mob credentials. Sorvino, famous for playing Paul Cicero in Goodfellas, is that guy. Hey, maybe the opera-trained singer can cover the song, too!

Who is He: Representing the Treasury, Smithers suspects that something is afoot with Mr. Goldfinger. He trains Bond on the gold market, preparing him for the mission at hand. He and M together come up with the mission to track Goldfinger.

Originally played by:

Richard Vernon (The Tomb of Ligeia, Evil Under the Sun)

My Choice: BAFTA Award/Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Venus)

Leslie Phillips (Millions, Is Anybody There?)
If you know Phillips, there is little need to explain this. If you don't, it's farly simple: older, British, with a voice and demeanor that suggest "retired banker". And Smithers is a money kind of guy.

Who is She: Jill's sister. Like Bond, she follows Goldfinger to his hideout. Unlike Bond, her mission is a pure vendetta, avenging the death of her sister at the hands of the billionaire terrorist. Bond considers trying it with her, but Tilly will not have it. Besides, she's more interested in Miss Pussy Galore....

Originally played by:

Tania Mallet

My Choice:

Laura Michelle Kelly ("Marple: Nemesis", Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
With only two film roles, Kelly shows a strong presence. No surprise, since she's theatrically trained. She meets the beauty requirements for a Bond Girl, but she can also hold her own.

Who is She: Goldfinger's secretary. She watches his games with Du Pont/Simmons through binoculars, informing her boss of his opponent's hand through his earpiece. Bond catches her, stops her, and -- because it's goddamn James Bond -- fucks her for a day. For her betrayal, Goldfinger paints her completely gold. Every inch of her. The paint suffocates her, and she is left on the bed for Bond to see.

Originally played by:

Shirley Eaton (Ten Little Indians, The Blood of Fu Manchu)

My Choice:

Jennifer Ellison (The Phantom of the Opera, The Cottage)
Sometimes, when casting Bond Girls, you just got to think: Does she have experience? Is this part within her range? How large are her two chief assets?

Who is He: Goldfinger's manservant, a muscled mute with a sharp bowler hat.

Originally played by:

Harold Sakata (Mako: The Jaws of Death, The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington)

My Choice:

Tony Lee ("Lost", Novel Romance)
Lee is perhaps best-known as Sun's "other man" on the show "Lost". Everyone on that show is great, and he's no exception. He's fit, so he can be a physical threat to Bond. I don't think we always need sumo wrestlers or Schwarzenegger types to fight 007; it's more threatening when it's someone your own height and build who is whooping your ass.

Who is She: In the film, she is relegated to Goldfinger's personal pilot. In the novel, and this is much cooler, she is the leader of an all-lesbian gang, the only ones who get away. This could have something to do with the fact that they're all pilots, and therefore can fly out of anywhere. But also, Bond takes a shine to her, and she realizes he's the only male man enough for her. If that makes sense.

Originally played by:

Honor Blackman (Jason and the Argonauts, Bridget Jones's Diary)

My Choice: Academy Award/SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Hustle & Flow, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

Taraji P. Henson (Smokin' Aces, Talk to Me)
Sexy and fierce. The woman is undeniably beautiful, but you know she could kill you just as easily as smile. A fantastic actress who can hold her own against any of her screen partners, oftentimes stealing the show without them realizing it. Henson would be a worthy addition to the Bond Girl Sisterhood.

Who is He: A wealthy businessman, also known as The Richest Man in England. Goldfinger is an expatriate who keeps his wealth as gold bullion, spread across the world. He does not keep anything in banks, nor does he pay taxes. The body of his car is pure gold, which he hides beneath a false exterior, allowing him to smuggle the precious metal across borders. He runs a business that makes metallic furniture, and plans Operation Grand Slam: the destruction, one way or another, of Fort Knox.

Originally played by:

Gert Frobe (The Longest Day, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)

My Choice:

Richard Sammel (Casino Royale, Inglourious Basterds)
His brief appearance in Basterds is notable for his suave, honorable demeanor never failing as he defended evil. He made wickedness look like an obvious course of action. So, he may not be as large as Goldfinger always has been in our minds, but he definitely deserves a big role like this one. He can get the character down, and still be lithe enough to keep up with James Bond. He's the only one for this role.

Yes? No? Maybe so? Sound off in the comments!

Happy Hubba-Hubba...

Can she really be thirty-five? I'm still getting used to her being thirty!

Happy Birthday to SSR's reigning Goddess of Beauty, Drew Barrymore!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Brit Locker

You've probably already heard about the champions from the ceremony across the pond. Just in case you need a refresher, though:

BEST PICTURE went to The Hurt Locker. I hope this, once and for all, puts the final nail in the coffin for the silly "something other than The Hurt Locker will win" articles. I don't think the new voting system matters; The Hurt Locker has the necessary support to take it all March 7. Especially since this American production won over homegrown An Education, something not even No Country for Old Men could accomplish (it lost to Atonement). Now, I know the only Oscar-BAFTA matches in this category in the past ten years are Gladiator, LOTR: ROTK and Slumdog Millionaire, but the planets are in alignment, the cards are dealt, and The Hurt Locker is going to win.

An Education even lost to Fish Tank for OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM. I hear it's very good, this Fish Tank, but I haven't seen it yet.

The Hurt Locker's greatest asset, of course, has been the champion of the season (Globes notwithstanding), and it was no different here: Kathryn Bigelow won BEST DIRECTOR, which will be repeated at the Academy Awards, making her the sexiest winner in this category Redford?

Colin Firth's BEST ACTOR win was deserved and just. I don't expect this to be repeated at the Oscars, but he's the best damn actor in the category. His award here will go down in my mind as the true results.

BEST ACTRESS went to Carey Mulligan, which I can see happening at the Oscars in case of Streep and Bullock splitting it. I'm glad she won. She's absolutely fantastic in An Education.

Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique won BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR and BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, respectively. Same old song.

Mark Boal, writer of The Hurt Locker, won for BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY, an award many people expect Quentin Tarantino and Inglourious Basterds to win at the Oscars. Me, I find Boal, Bigelow and the Hurt Locker train unstoppable. Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner won for BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY for Up in the Air. Same old song.

Michael Giacchino's Up score took top honors in BEST MUSIC. Giacchino, who also composed the Star Trek score this year, in addition to Pixar's Ratatouille and The Incredibles and the modern classic Speed Racer, has been waiting for major awards recognition. This is his year.

And Barry Ackroyd won BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY for The Hurt Locker. Indeed, only in VFX and Best Actor did the film not come up as champion. Just take a look at the rest of the honors:

The Hurt Locker

The Young Victoria



Un Prophete


I Do Air

Mother of Many

Kristen Stewart

The most any film won is two, save for The Hurt Locker, which championed in six categories. Even the Brits know: The Hurt Locker is the film to beat.

The Write Stuff

And your winners for this year's WGA Awards are:

In original screenplay, beating out (500) Days of Summer, Avatar, The Hangover and A Serious Man.....MARK BOAL FOR THE HURT LOCKER!!!

It is as I predicted. The Hurt Locker has now won the prize at all guilds save SAG. People do realize it's been the frontrunner to win Best Picture for, like, ever, right? And if they didn't before, they should now. I would predict it to win the Oscar in this category too, were it not for the pesky presence of Inglourious Basterds, which was deemed ineligible for the WGA.

In adapted screenplay, beating out Crazy Heart, Julie & Julia, Precious and Star Trek....JASON REITMAN AND SHELDON TURNER FOR UP IN THE AIR!!!

Again, as I expected. This ain't rocket surgery. Up in the Air will win at the Oscars, too, as a strange sort of consolation prize for not awarding Clooney, the actresses, or Reitman's director persona. Or Picture. Anyway, this one it has in the bag.

Just two weeks until The Big Night!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Some May Bet on You to Win

Hannah Montana: The Movie managed to make it to both my Top 25 of 2009 and The Hollmann Awards. While my review talked up the performances, direction, even the script, only one element made it to my nominees: the music. Which is fitting, since the movie is all about music sensation Hannah Montana, played by the underestimated Miley Cyrus.

If an original song is meant to reflect the gist of the film, than surely "Back to Tennessee" is a better statement of what Hannah Montana is all about than "The Climb". Naturally, it's sung by Billy Ray instead of Miley, so I understand why the second one got more airtime. But "Back to Tennessee" is the best song in the movie, and even though we only hear a snippet of it in the film itself, it stayed with me enough that I had to get the soundtrack just to hear it over and over again.

After all, the plot of the movie revolves around Miley's family going back to Tennessee to escape the superficial trappings of Hollywood. Appropriately enough, the lyrics reflect a desire to return to roots in Tennessee, escaping the shiny, shallow riches of the city. It's the plot of the movie, only seen through the eyes of the father rather than the daughter. And it's surprisingly beautiful.

Great big towns so full of users
Make a million, still a loser
Some may bet on you to win
Most hope you won't

Friday, February 19, 2010

Promoting Your Friends

For anyone interested in what we do here as film students at FSU, two of my classmates have started a YouTube channel documenting our lives. Mostly theirs, but the rest of us make appearances. Check it out:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I've Got a Crush on You...


I never thought I would like Valentine's Day more than The Wolf Man. True, it was #13 on my 25 Most Anticipated this year, but The Wolf Man was #1 on last year's. In the end, though, I could not resist the charm of this ensemble rom-com.

It's uneven, certainly. Not tonally, of course, but quality-wise. Some moments are great, flirting with brilliance...others are just head-slappingly awful. Often, these come together, with clunky lines following witty gems. It's certainly an odd one to get into, too, for every scene plays like the climax. So many important story developments happen that you're wondering where all the character development went. And then you realize that there's still another hour and fifteen minutes to go, so this is technically just the big ACT ONE CURTAIN.

But it's hard not to fall in love with some of its most charming aspects. The great-looking cast, the great-looking costumes, those moments of brilliance. The old married couple of Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine is realistically written and portrayed; the high school deflowering subplot is funny and sweet; the chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts gives us the most consistently great storyline of the film.

And yes, I wish the only Asians in the movie weren't stereotypes, and I hated the xenophobic "English with a Bulgarian accent" joke, and the gay couple could have at least hugged or shaken hands or something, and the scene in the school with Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner was clunky, unnatural, and irritating to watch.

But the movie did make me admire the acting abilities of Kutcher, Jessica Alba and George Lopez, which is no small feat. It was interesting to see the whole gamut of great, awful, and eh in one movie, though. Only one performance stinks to high heaven, and that's Eric Dane as a pro football player. Non-actor Taylor Swift has dead eyes, though she makes an energetic first attempt at acting. Child actor Bryce Robinson is adorable, but midway through, you realize he, too, has dead eyes and a blank face. Patrick Dempsey and Kathy Bates are only cameos, and though Queen Latifah almost fits this bill, too, she is just so glorious to watch.

So, best in show: Jessica Biel, Cooper, Carter Jenkins, Kutcher, Anne Hathaway, Latifah, Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts and Julia Roberts. With ten especially strong performances and only three awful ones in a cast of twenty-two, Valentine's Day is a real charmer.

The Weary Movie Kind

So, I've not been letting the grass grow beneath my feet. I've actually been to the movies!


Well, Jeff Bridges is great. It's a natural, lived-in performance that understands the man, with every gesture as natural as breathing. The music is fantastic, a marvelous soundtrack, and "The Weary Kind" deserves to win over the other nominees. But I'm still coming to terms with that ending, so different from the novel's, yet just as sincere. The novel's seemed to have a bitter ending for the sake of bitterness; the movie has an uplifting one just because, too. Can't we have the bittersweet one that this story seems to call for? It's choppy and does not completely deliver.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is fine, playing a vulnerable young woman who always seems to be attracted to the wrong guy. She does not want to love Bridges, but she falls for him, and takes the risk. Sometimes, though, she looks like she wishes she could do more. It doesn't help that the editing, or maybe the screenplay itself, seems to cut most developments, including what attracts her to Bad Blake.

And I don't buy that final moment, either. It could end with him walking off as Colin Farrell sings "The Weary Kind". For Gyllenhaal to approach him after telling him to leave her alone, revealing that she's married, and everything's OK just doesn't ring true for the narrative. It's like everyone thought it was just too depressing that they couldn't be together, so they at least needed a friendly interview. And then she offers to let him see her son, who he lost in the middle of fucking Houston?!? NO. Bad mom.

It's an all right movie, with plenty of moments that work because of what Jeff Bridges does. I can't find room for him on my ballot, to be honest.


After the debacle that was my first attempt to see it, my roommate and I finally caught the movie we'd been following since pre-production. And so, here I am, almost willing to apologize to AMC, because clearly they were trying to spare me. The werewolf sequences are cool. There's plenty of mayhem to go around. But it does nothing to serve the story. It just gathers a bunch of people together in order to off them in the grisliest manner possible. Which I'm not completely against, but it does get tedious after the fourteenth kill. Not only that, they do not work with the non-werewolf scenes.

To be fair, the non-werewolf scenes don't work at all. It's hard to believe this was Benicio del Toro's pet project, for he seems to have shown up with a gun to his head. He looks miserable, poor soul, and it's hard to detect whether he's trying for realism or camp since his line readings don't go together. And he just looks ill, like he's about to throw up. We are told he is a great Shakespearean actor in the movie, but there's no point to that detail, other than to allow Anthony Hopkins to make a few theatre jokes. The character of Lawrence Talbot is dull and lifeless, and Del Toro, with his American accent frequently losing the war with his Hispanic one, is probably the worst part of the movie. At least Hopkins and Hugo Weaving are having fun with the story, though it must be said that Hopkins appears to have too much of it. It's Hopkins hamming it up, not Sir John. Emily Blunt tries to instill some life into her stock caricature, but to no avail. Only Weaving gives a performance that perfectly balances the disparate tones of the film.

And man, do those tones work against each other. Joe Johnston even admitted that he just wanted to make a fun creature feature, while the studio wanted a more serious take on the story. And, hey, that's how the script is written. Johnston's enthusiasm for one aspect of the story causes the other, larger one to suffer. Only the asylum sequence works 100%, for like Weaving, it's the one section that knows just how serious to be and how much fun to have. But hey, at least the VFX are fine and the makeup and sound design are incredible. At least I can say that.

Casting Coup: Cabaret

Cabaret is probably the best depiction of Germany in the days approaching World War II. The director of the production I was in once went on a rant after a sloppy rehearsal for "Telephone Song", explaining how if our characters didn't get carelessly drunk, then the show doesn't work. We have to not care about tomorrow or today or five seconds from now, we have to want to just party and have a good time and escape from the world. Because it was not anti-Semitism or desperation alone that led to the rise of the Third Reich, but a careless, apathetic people who couldn't oppose a terrifying new power because they were drunkenly ogling girls at a cabaret. And that's what the Cabaret is: the greatest distraction the Nazis had. Which is why the ending of Sam Mendes's revival does not completely work; in trying to humanize the MC and make him a Jew, the symbolism is lost.

So, yes, it is the greatest depiction of this era because it does not rely on sobbing children or alarums or a rabid Hitler or dead Jews to portray the sickness, but musical numbers. The audience gets caught up in the whirly fun of it all, with the sexy Sally Bowles and the charming MC, and before we know it, the Nazis have taken over. It's a devastating show, and the film works it just as effectively.

Sometimes I can't believe it took me until November to see Cabaret. I knew several people who owned it. I owned the Broadway Cast Recording in high school. And my junior year of high school, I played Clifford Bradshaw (Brian Roberts to fans of the film) in a stage production, probably my personal favorite performance from my theatre days. A good chunk of my teen years were spent with the show, yet something in me avoided the film for years.

I think it comes down to knowing I was ready for it. People had already told me it was almost nothing like the stage version, so I needed some years to separate myself on that front. Even then, it needed to be a moment where I knew I had to see it, that there was no going back, that the planets were all in alignment. It's just such a respected piece of cinema, I wanted to be sure that I was properly cleansed and open to its gifts. In the end, I made the right decision, because when I finally did see it...oh man.

The movie is markedly different from the stage production. Sally is American, Cliff is British and renamed Brian, his friendship with a Nazi is cut out in favor of a subplot involving a very rich German and the menage a trois that follows. The romantic subplot between the landlady and a Jewish tenant is replaced by one between a student of Brian's and a wealthy Jewish girl. The landlady and the prostitute are reduced to cameos. Most notably, the song score is greatly reduced, leaving only the songs performed in the cabaret and the Nazi recruitment song, "Tomorrow Belongs to Me". There are eleven songs cut in all, though two are replaced by newer songs; in addition, "Maybe This Time" is added to the proceedings, becoming one of the most recorded and recognizable song from the film.

But all these changes are fine: Bob Fosse is at the helm. And Fosse, from what I've seen, only knew how to make masterpieces. Apparently, the Academy agreed, awarding him the Oscar for Best Director over -- wait for it -- Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather. I know!

Actually, Cabaret only lost two of its ten nominations, both to The Godfather: Adapted Screenplay (Jay Allen losing to Coppola and Mario Puzo) and Best Picture of the Year. Of its eight wins, four were directly up against the mob epic. In addition to Fosse, Robert Knudson and David Hilyard won for Sound, and David Bretherton won the Film Editing trophy. As for number four, the trifecta of Pacino-Duvall-Caan lost the Supporting Actor Oscar to Joel Grey, whose legendary portrayal of the Master of Ceremonies made him the sixth of nine actors to win the Tony Award and the Academy Award for the same role. Anyone who's seen it knows why.

Liza Minnelli won Best Actress, of course. Her Americanized Sally Bowles is a hurricane of energy, a real livewire, one of the most deserved wins in Oscar history. Composer Ralph Burns won back when the score category was separated, his winning for Original Song Score/Adaptation. Geoffrey Unsworth's spectacular cinematography won -- though, remarkably, The Godfather wasn't even nominated. Finally, Rolf Zehetbauer, Hans Jurgen Kiebach and Herbert Strabel won for Art Direction/Set Decoration. And the accolades don't stop there: three Golden Globes, seven BAFTA Awards, and #63 on AFI's 2007 list of the 100 Greatest Movies Ever Made.

So, yeah, a little intimidating. How does one improve on one of the most respected, renowned, perfect adaptations of a musical?

You don't. Instead, you go back to square one. Forget the subplot with Marisa Berenson. Put Schneider and Schultz back in. Let everyone else have their musical numbers. Turn British Brian Roberts back into American Clifford Bradshaw. And Sally Bowles...keep her English.

Who is He: A German Clifford meets on the train to Berlin. Ernst is likable, humorous, a pleasure to be around. He is also a devoted Nazi, warning Clifford and Sally not to mix with people like Schultz.

Sings: The Telephone Song, Tomorrow Belongs to Me
The sun in the meadow is summery warm
The stag in the forest runs free
But gather together to greet the storm

Tomorrow belongs to me

My Choice:

Joe Anderson (Control, Amelia)
Young, likable, blond. He can probably do a German accent. His American one is impeccable, and he's from England.

Who is She: A prostitute living at Schneider's boarding-house. She, too, becomes a member of the Party.

Sings: Tomorrow Belongs to Me (Reprise)
The babe in his cradle is closing his eyes
The blossom embraces the bee
But soon says a whisper, "Arise, arise,

"Tomorrow belongs to me"

Originally played by:

Helen Vita (Rosemary, What Tour Guides Can't Tell You)

My Choice:

Carice Van Houten (Black Book, Valkyrie)
Yes, yes, I know she's Dutch, not Deutsch. She's still the only person in this cast that's actually from continental Europe. She can sing, too, which is good because Kost leads the reprise.

Who is He: A fruit shop owner who lives at Schneider's boarding-house, he falls in love with his landlady. The two pursue a romance, but it becomes difficult when his Jewishness is attacked by the rising party.

Sings: It Couldn't Please Me More, Married, Meeskite
Meeskite, meeskite
Once upon a time there was a

Meeskite, meeskite

Looking in the mirror

He would say

What an awful shock,

I've got a face
That could stop a clock.

My Choice:

Philip Bosco (Shadows & Fog, The Savages)
A great character actor with equal abilities in comedy and drama. I love his voice, too. Imean, I've never heard him sing, but I love his speaking voice.

Who is She: A widow who runs the boarding-house where Clifford and others stay. Schneider tries to make the best of things, but finds herself falling in love with her Jewish tenant as the Nazis rise to power.

Sings: So What, It Couldn't Please Me More, Married, What Would You Do?
With the storm in the wind,
What would you do?

Suppose you are unafraid and wise,

Being told what the choice must be.

Go on, tell me...
I will listen...
What would you do?...
If you were me!

Originally played by:

Elisabeth Neumann-Viertel (The Odessa File, The Little Drummer Girl)

My Choice: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (The Hospital)

Start at 8:17
Diana Rigg (On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Theatre of Blood)
A magnificent singer and an actress who never got her due. Not as much as she sh0uld have, at any rate. I know she can do accents, and she can certainly bring the funny for the first song and gravitas for the last one.

Who is He: Clifford Bradshaw is a writer from Philadelphia. He arrives in Berlin to teach English, and winds up meeting and falling in love with Sally Bowles. While she is content with forcing her head in the clouds, Clifford becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the Nazis and jealous of Sally's profession.

Sings: The Telephone Song, Perfectly Marvelous, Why Should I Wake Up?
Why should I wake up?
Why waste a drop of the wine?

Don't I adore you

And aren't you mine?

Maybe I'll someday be lonely again,

But why should I wake up...

Why should I wake up 'til then?

Originally played by:

Michael York (Murder on the Orient Express, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)

My Choice: Academy Award/Indie Spirit/SAG Award Nominee for Best Actor (Half Nelson), Golden Globe/Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Actor [in a Musical/Comedy] (Lars and the Real Girl)

Ryan Gosling (Fracture, Blue Valentine)
He's a trained singer and a fine actor.

Who is He: The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Club, the cabaret club where Sally performs. The emcee is a showman first and last, representative of pre-war Germany. He seems so cool and fun, but there is also a strange, sinister edge to him.

Sings: Willkommen, Two Ladies, The Money Song, If You Could See Her, Finale
If you could see her thru my eyes,
You wouldn't wonder at all.

If you could see her thru my eyes,

I guarantee you would fall (Like I did)
When we're in public together,

I hear society moan,
But if they could see her thru my eyes,

Maybe they'd leave us alone.

Originally played by: Academy Award/Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Cabaret)

Joel Grey (Buffalo Bill and the Indians, Choke)

My Choice: Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy (Pennies from Heaven)

Bernadette Peters (The Jerk, Annie)
Weirdly enough, this was my immediate choice. She's a hell of a performer, commanding a stage the way few people can. The role has been played by women on stage in a number of places (or so I've read). Alan Cumming's performance in the revival transformed the Emcee into a being that was not asexual so much as he was omnisexual. Why, then, can a performer of Peters' caliber not play this role? Because of the male-specific songs? That in itself could be part of the challenge, one that I'm sure Peters is more than able to make her bitch.

Who is She: The star of the Kit Kat Club, a larger-than-life English beauty who knows she's going to be a big star one day, right? She has a string of lovers, but becomes involved with Clifford. The two fall in love, but Sally is a free-spirited sort.

Sings: Don't Tell Mama, The Telephone Song, Perfectly Marvelous, Cabaret
You can tell my grandma, suits me fine
Just yesterday, she joined the line
But don't tell mama what you know!

Originally played by: Academy Award/BAFTA Award/Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress [in a Musical/Comedy] (Cabaret)

Liza Minnelli (The Sterile Cuckoo, New York, New York)

My Choice: Academy Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress [in a Musical/Comedy] (Pride & Prejudice), BAFTA Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress [in a Drama] (Atonement)

Keira Knightley (Love Actually, The Duchess)
Keira has proven herself to be an actress formidable, both as a dramatic performer and as a spunky comedienne. She is a capable singer; not effing spectacular, but great enough for a job at a cabaret like the Kit Kat Club. And she's a young English girl, like in the original stage production.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What the Fucking Fuck???

This was the worst movie-going experience I've ever had. Ever.

It wasn't the movie's fault. Oh, no. In fact, I can't even give you a proper opinion of The Wolfman, distracted as I was by the projection. Right after the trailers ended, we noticed the "Feature Presentation" card was a little off. But we thought it wouldn't be so for for the movie. We were dead wrong. For the first thirty-five minutes, this is what we got:

See? See how the picture bleeds onto the ceiling and the seats? Yeah, this is what we had for the first thirty-five minutes of a two hour movie. I know, because when they finally corrected the image (after seven or eight people walked out to complain), I looked at my watch. Thirty-five minutes. But, OK, the problem was solved, right?

Well, apparently, this was a digital projector, and digital projectors work differently than regular ones. They've got the digital slates and the dates and the hoo-hah. So, while we finally had a real aspect ratio, this is what we got from time to time:

Now, obviously I don't have a real scanner, so I used the Photo Booth program on Apple and it wouldn't flip right, so whatever. But you get the point, right. Right at the top of the screen are the numbers and everything. Occasionally, too, we would just get a pure black bar across the top. I mean, what the fuck? The first problem you could claim was the result of being in a smaller than intended theater (which, by the way, is stupid, and why does Valentine's Day need the almost-IMAX screen?), but I don't understand this problem at all.

At this point, an employee came into the theater, crouched low to the screen...and widened the curtains. I don't know what made him commit this act of maliciousness, but we were now back to a screen that was blankly black on the left and right. Which is distracting, as I'm sure you know. Did he think if we were mad about that, we wouldn't notice the digital numbers? Because if so, then he probably shat himself when this happened:

And that's when the audience gave up. Half the audience cried, "Come on! What the fuck?" The other half, me included, just started laughing. It was just so absurd by that point. We only got that picture for a short minute, as opposed to the ten of this:

Ahahahaha! Were they for fucking real?

This is when I ran out, and a young woman and I walked in tandem to the management office. We knocked and knocked, but no answer. We went upstairs. We knocked on every door we could find. When I went back downstairs to the lobby, the entire theater had left. We wandered about, trying to find any employee we could who would solve the problem. I went back in to check on the picture, and that's how I know the above image lasted ten minutes, at the very least. Despicable.

We were out there an hour. I know it was a midnight movie, but there should have been someone working there, especially considering that we only one of four movies playing at that time. For a full hour, we were looking for an employee: projection, concessions, cleaning, somebody. Not a soul. Even the horrid curtain-widener was nowhere to be found. We wrote notes to the management and left them on the Service & Information desk. Most of them were actually pretty polite. One told them to go to hell. Mine said, "Unacceptable." Nothing else.

Finally, a security guard for the mall arrived and spoke to us. He was surprised to learn there were no employees there, so he checked himself. When he came back, he informed us that if we return in the morning and ask for the manager (sir, I have given you anonymity, so you're welcome), we can be either reimbursed or given a free ticket. I'm asking for the reimbursement. Because between this, the echoing sound of The Final Destination, the dim projection light on three of their screens, and the first blurry, out-of-focus half-hour of The Lovely Bones, this movie theater is not getting my money.

So, if you're ever in Tallahassee, Florida, just know that the AMC 20 at the Tallahassee Mall, 2415 N Monroe Street, is an over-priced, awful place to see a movie. I'm sorry I ever gave my money to a business that wasn't Regal. I may be just one guy, but I hope others read this and opt for not-shitty service.

For more info, check out Oh, Cinema's rant.