Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vanity Fair: Hollywood Issue 2012

 Vanity Fair revealed the cover of it's 18th Annual Hollywood Issue today. And my, is it pretty. The actresses are (from left to right) Academy Award nominee, Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), should-have-been nominee for Jane Eyre, Mia Wasikowska, Academy Award Nominee and future Hunger Games star, Jennifer Lawrence, Academy Award Nominee, Jessica Chastain (The Help), Olsen twins' sister, Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Adepero Oduye (Pariah), Thank-god-she-didn't-get-an-Academy-Award-Nominee, Shailene Woodley (The Descendants), Wife of Robin Thicke, Paula Patton (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocal), my year in advance nominee, Felicity Jones (Like Crazy), daughter of Phil Collins, Lily Collins (Abducted), and someone I had to Google to find out who she was, Brit Marling (Another Earth). It's the first time the cover was shot by photographer, Mario Testino. (I guess Annie Leibovitz decided to take a year off...or was asking too much.) They were going for a 1920's-30's feel this year and I think it's really gorgeous. It's airbrushed within an inch of it's life, but that adds to the glamour. It gives it a painterly quality and actually reminds me of fashion illustrations from the 30's. 

I actually have a subscription to Vanity Fair. The sole reason is to receive this issue. Every month I get it in the mail and I'm disappointed by the lazy cover subject. Is there really anything new to learn about Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, or Jennifer Lopez?  But, the Hollywood Issue can always be counted on for that three-page, fold-out cover of new stars. (Except in 2009 when Obama appeared on the cover instead. I was livid. They couldn't have done that for the February issue?) You see, the Hollywood Issue and I have a history. I have every year's issue since 1998. (Minus the Obama one. It was my protest against the breaking of a tradition.) In 1999, instead of flowers after my performance in the school play, my parents gave me that year's Hollywood Issue. Each year, I look forward to seeing what the theme will be and who will make that first panel. Some years have not been so great (4 male comedians with penguins?). Sometimes some of the predicted up-and-coming stars don't quite pan out (Quick- try to remember Claire Forlani, Alice Braga, or Sarah Wynter. There's a reason they're usually relegated to that third panel anyway). But, it always brings back a bit of classic Hollywood sophistication and fuses the feel of Old Hollywood with the modern Next-Big-Thing. My mom had this book, 'Life' Goes to the Movies, that I used to look at as a child. It really shaped my love of classic film because it made me want to know who these movie stars were. That's the same feeling I get with every new Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue. 

Eponine Watch: NO TAYLOR SWIFT!!! (Thank, God)

Sing a chorus of Hallelujahs! Shout it from the rooftops! All is well in the world because it was officially announced today (and confirmed by Universal Pictures) that the part of Eponine in the Les Misérables film will not be played by country star, Taylor Swift, as initially reported, but by an actual musical theatre performer. Samantha Barks, who played the part of Eponine in the 25th Anniversary concert, is set to star as the unlucky-in-love street urchin. She received the news today on stage after this evening's performance of Oliver! on the West End where she's been playing the part of Nancy. Les Miz producer, Cameron Macintosh, apparently made the announcement to her in front of the audience. What a dramatic way to announce a casting. It better well be true or that's just a cruel thing to do.

Swift had been in the running with three other well-known actresses and at the beginning of the month, it had been announced she had been offered the part. Did you she turn it down? Why would you audition for something that you obviously want, be offered the part, and then not want to do it? Was it something we said? Maybe she couldn't find a way to make her trademarked Surprised Face work for the character. I don't really give a damn why she's not doing it. I'm just excited that the filmmakers went with Barks.

Filming starts shooting soon and my levels of anticipation and excitement have just gotten higher (I bet you didn't think that was possible). To recap, we officially now have Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Annie Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Eddie Redmayne as Marius, and Samantha Barks as Eponine. (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are still in negotiations to play Eponine's parents, the Thenardiers.) Welcome to the cast, Sam! You are truly a god-sent. Before it's captured on film, let's take a look at the rightful Eponine in action.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Can You Mess Up Lines in a Silent Film?

In honor of Jean Dujardin's surprise SAG award win last night, I'm posting this video of bloopers from the set of The Artist. It may be the world's most adorable bloopers. If I wasn't aware it was a blooper reel I would have just assumed it was an actual comedic short film they had assembled. It's looking like that charm is gonna take them all the way to Best Picture at the Oscars. The main question is: can Jean surprise and take Best Actor?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Live Blogging The SAGs Ceremony

8:02 They're doing the classic intro for the SAGs: I'm an actor. Everyone is so awkward. You would think as actors they would be able to do better in saying such awful copy.

8:05 Best Supporting Actor: My roommate says that Armie Hammer has a great voice. Then we hear Leo in the J. Edgar clip who must definitely does not have the best voice. Especially in that movie.

8:07 Christopher Plummer wins. No surprise there. He has a sweet speech but keeps doing this odd thing with his mouth where he's making a sucking sound. Is he losing his dentures?

8:12 Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer. Another no brainer. If she wasn't already winning the Oscar she would be with that speech. She managed to honor everyone from the woman who have come before her to pave the way and the present day down-trodden. Wow, imagine if this was actually an award that mattered...

8:22 Now we've gone to TV. Best Actor in a Comedy: Alec Baldwin. 6th consecutive win in this category! Man, Steve Carrell never wins anything. And now he will officially never win an award for 'The Office'. Some Country music starts playing in the middle of the '30 Rock' theme. Get it together SAGs!

8:25 Moving right along. Best Actress in a Comedy: Betty White. She won last year. Her clip was awful. Is it time for some Betty backlash? I just realized that theirs no supporting category. Its just everyone in there.

8:31 That was a fun montage of local actors in films. Its nice to honor working actors who make a living acting but don't get recognition. But, Mike Tyson as a local actor from Las Vegas is a bit of a stretch.

8:35 Best Ensemble in TV Comedy: Modern Family. Everything is so predictable. They even wrote a skit for the kids they were so confident of their win. After seeing that, is it too late to take back the award?

8:43 Best Actress in a TV Movie or Miniseries: Kate Winslet Mildred Pierce. I wrote that before they actually announced it. Where's Kate? Is she suddenly over winning awards?

8:47 Is that a wife-beater underneath Zoe Saldana's old lady caftan?

8:48 Best Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries: Paul Giamatti Too Big To Fail. He's a no show as well. Makes the ceremony go more quickly. And now the SAG president is speaking so, scratch that...

8:59 That was the highlight of the evening. Drinking game from the set of Bridesmaids. Drink everytime someone says "Scorsese". There was a reason that movie was so successful. Those ladies are funny. Hopefully they bring the funny to the Oscars. God knows it needs it.

9:01 Mary Tyler Moore tribute. I'm making a salad. Talk amongst yourselves...

9:17 Best Actress in Drama: Jessica Lange 'American Horror Story' (Did Kathy Bates have a feather fan with her? Someone cast her as a Madame in a brothel soon.) Lange is really good at playing crazy, but part of me feels it's not that different from her real life.

9:21 "If Drag Queens love you, you'll have the longest career. They know phony and they know real." Kathie Lee Gifford courtesy of Tina Fey

9:23 Best Actor in a Drama: Steve Buscemi 'Boardwalk Empire' Drink! He said Scorsese!

9:26 Meryl now presents In Memoriam. She's so somber tonight. I don't like this Meryl.

9:37 Best Ensemble Drama: Boardwalk Empire. I still have to see that show. HBO sure takes its sweet ass time putting shows out on DVD at Netflix. (Which apparently, they're thinking about not doing at all anymore.) Luckily, the first season is up now. I'll get on it soon. Just as soon as I watch Roman Polanski's Tess. (God, I hate when I don't update my queue in time.)

9:41 Best Actor  (we're back to film): Jean Dujardin The Artist Finally, a surprise! I'm just glad it's not Clooney. Maybe the best Actor race is more exciting than we thought. Oh, to be charming and French...
(What was with Natalie Portman presenting? She seemed annoyed or exhausted. I know she has a newborn, but you don't think everyone else in that room isn't exhausted from all these awards ceremonies?)

9:52 Best Actress: Viola Davis The Help Emotional speech. I got a little misty eyed. I do love when people are able to do the thing they love. And Viola obviously loves acting.

9:56 Best Ensemble: The Help People really love that movie. I'm glad that it went to a film that actually is an ensemble.

And the ceremony is over in 2 hours. In and out, but as a whole- kinda boring. The music and copy just seemed so dated. The first SAGs were in 1995, but this ceremony seems even older than that.

Well, I've survived my first live-blog of an awards show. How do you feel about the winners? The real surprises really came toward the end. Do you feel most people had tuned out before then? On to the Oscars in Feb!

Live Blogging The SAGs Red Carpet

6:00 Live from the Red Carpet on E! is on TV. The live feed is on my computer. I feel overwhelmed. It may be a disaster. I'll try to do the best I can. Come back often for updates.

6:08 You know, perhaps two hours before the ceremony starts is a little early to start. It's been on for 8 minutes and no one has showed up yet.

6:11 People from 'The Good Wife' just appeared from out of a spinning giant bottle of champagne. It's gonna be that kind of night...

6:13 Finally, first spotting of someone and it's...Octavia Spencer from The Help. I guess it could be worse. At least she's a nominee. 

6:18 An E exclusive, Suri from '30 Rock' is engaged. Try to contain your excitement. Her fiance looks 12 and a foot shorter than her. Well, we're off to a good start...

6:22 Glenn Close sighting! Sorry, Julianna Margulies. You just aren't holding my attention

6:25 Octavia and Josh Hopkins from 'Cougartown' are friends and came together? That's an odd pairing, but I approve.

6:31 The feed has just informed us that today is Oprah's birthday. But, who can concentrate on such news when Ashlee Simpson (what's she doing there?) is talking about her favorite haircut. Short and blonde for those of you who care. Which is no one.

6:33 Armie Hammer...with really bad slicked-back, duck flip hair in the back. He looked better in his mug shot.

6:38 They just showed a clip of Brad Pitt on an episode of 'Dallas' from 1988. Patrick Duffy said he directed the episode. Brad kinda looks the same...

6:47 Ross is talking about Beaches with Mayim Bialik. I love it. She doesn't seem that eager to talk about it saying it was back in 1989. The Beaches soundtrack was the first cassette tape I remember owning. Give me some inside info, Mayim!

6:51 Viola Davis looks great in a white Marchesa but her deep voice and laugh are throwing me off.

6:52 My friend just text saying that Nick Nolte looks like Father Christmas. I haven't seen him yet but hope he's wearing a fur trimmed red suit.

6:56 I'm getting a Princess Leia as Jabba the Hut's slave girl vibe from Kristen Wiig. Perhaps its the chocker that takes up her entire neck. But her impression of Kris Jenner was fun.

6:58 Matthew Lillard looks so old. He played teenagers through his early 30's and suddenly age has caught up with him.

7:00 Jonah Hill gained back all the weight he lost. He's talking about how he thought the people at E were rude when they were surprised about his Oscar nomination. But, I mean, Jonah- think about it. You just got an Oscar nomination and you've appeared in a film where you couldn't stop drawing dicks on things. Isn't exactly the start of a career that gets Oscar nominations...

7:13 Melissa McCarthy's husband (from Bridesmaids) looks like a child molester. Loved how she avoided a high five by turning it into a handshake.

7:18 Colin Hanks sounds exactly like his dad.

7:28 Does anyone really believe that George Clooney and Stacy Keibler are actually dating? This is the most fake PR manufactured relationship.

7:31 E just incorrectly identified Ellie Kemper on the red carpet as Grizz Chapman from '30 Rock'. Nothing like a lady named Grizz...

7:36 Guiliana and Jane Lynch just juggled together. They should take that show on the road!

7:42 Will Meryl ever stop wearing the same style of dress? Her hair always looks so messy. She's really subdued due to an illness.

7:44 Diana Agron from 'Glee' had a Heidi braid wrapped around her head and then apparently took a day long nap to achieve just the right amount of disheveled. She and Meryl Streep must share a hair stylist.

7:48 Maya Rudolph and Gwyneth Paltrow went to grade school together! How fun. Ross asked if they ate pizza rolls together. Somehow I feel like Gwyneth has never eaten a pizza roll ever. Even when she was a child.

7:54 Brad Pitt just spoke about in Moneyball when his daughter sings a song for him. That was a part of the film that took me out of the story. She sings a song that she supposedly wrote, but it's a song by a singer named Lenka. The film is set in the early 2000's yet Lenka wrote it in like 2007. Somehow his daughter went into the future and stole the song and made it her own.

7:58 We end the Red Carpet with Angie in a leather (?) darped dress. She wants us to travel the world and find out who we are. I will Angie, thanks!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Always Bet On Streep and Clooney

Every year on the day after the Oscar ceremony, I send out an e-mail to my friends with my year in advance Oscar predictions in the four acting categories. It's definitely crazy to think ahead to the next year when that year's Oscar winners are probably still out partying with their Oscar in their hand. But, there's definitely a science to coming up with it. There are certain people (ahem, Meryl Streep) that are almost guaranteed a nomination no matter what the film. With a record 17 nominations, it's a pretty good guess that she'll be in the mix. And add the fact that she's playing a real person and you can practically send her nomination certificate in the mail already. You have to think about who is having a moment. What actors have been gaining momentum and seem like it's their time. And then there's the legends who have never been nominated or won. I usually get a couple right in each category, so let's see how I did this year:

Best Actor
George Clooney The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio J. Edgar
Ryan Gosling The Ides of March
Viggo Mortensen A Dangerous Method
 Gary Oldman Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

You're In, Oldman!
Who I got right: Clooney and Oldman. 
Clooney is another one like Streep, someone who's respected in Hollywood so it's pretty easy to go with him. And add the fact that he was working in an Alexander Payne film, who's no stranger to Oscar, and it's a safe bet. 
People were actually predicting, while the film was still shooting, that Leo was actually going to win because he's never won before. But, his performance in J. Edgar was weighed down by all that age make-up. And the movie was a snore. Nevertheless, it was looking like DiCaprio was gonna be in for the simple fact that he's DiCaprio. But, Oscar is always full of surprises and his snub was one of them on Tuesday morning. As much as I like being right, I'm glad he didn't make the cut this time. 
Many thought Gosling should have been nominated last year for Blue Valentine. And this year was definitely a big year for him. But, Ides of March just wasn't the film it should have been and Gosling seemed bored as well. He just kinda gave up. He'll be back soon though.
Viggo will get a second nomination one day. And playing Frued in a film by Cronenberg seemed like a good bet. But, the film never really gained any buzz and Viggo was more of a supporting role. 
The overdue Oldman finally received his first Oscar nomination. I was counting on it being his time to be honored. And his nomination just barely made it in. 

Best Actress
Felicity Jones Like Crazy
Rooney Mara The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep The Iron Lady
Charlize Theron Young Adult
Michelle Williams My Week With Marilyn

Don't look so sad. i correctly guessed you would be nominated a year in advance!

Who I got right: Mara, Steep, and Williams. This was my best category this year. I really debated about putting on Glenn Close, but I couldn't decide who to drop. If only I could go back and drop Jones...
Felicity Jones had just won an acting award at Sundance for this movie and Sundance buzz worked in previous years for Carey Mulligan and Jennifer Lawrence (both whom I correctly predicted in their respective years). Unfortunately, Felicity wasn't able to use that momentum to her advantage. And after seeing the film, her performance seems a little slight. I'm surprised she won over Elizabeth Olsen, who came closer to a nom than Felicity.
Poeple love that Lisbeth Salander. Noomi Rapace had Oscar buzz for the Swedish versions of the films, so it seemed natural that Rooney would actually get a nom for David Fincher's English language adaption. Her nom was another surprise on Tuesday morning (sorry, Tilda), but you should never underestimate The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo phenomenon. 
Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher. A cloistered monk could have guessed this nomination. 
Charlize! It should have happened. Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody were both nominated for their last collaboration and Charlize is a two-time nominee (and winner). Too bad people never really responded to the film. Charlize really did deserve this nom. I'm just glad she's working again.
This was another no brainer. Michelle Williams has two previous nominations and playing a real person, especially a well-known one like Marilyn Monroe, is classic Oscar bait. 

Supporting Categories after the break...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Still Awesome Without a Nomination

Julia, I Am Love, We Need to Talk About Kevin. All three apparently not good enough for the Academy to give Tilda a Best Actress Oscar nomination. It doesn't seem to have affected the idiosyncratic star who has one of the best reactions ever to not be nominated for a third year in a row. You enjoy that lovely home in February. It's hard work being so amazing. And Academy, feel free to welcome Ms. Swinton back at any time. For, oh, I don't know- her planned remake of Auntie Mame with her I Am Love director, Luca Guadagnino. I'm so looking forward to seeing Tilda let loose and play the eccentric aunt. A larger than life character like Mame requires the one of a kind talent and personality that Tilda has naturally. Academy, please take note...

They're Saying What We're All Thinking

This was too funny not to repost. There are more at this link

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Wait is Over: The Oscar Nominations

After months of speculation, the nominees were finally announced this morning by Oscar Nominee, Jennifer Lawrence. And, as expected, there are surprises to be had. Let's get right to it:

Best Picture
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
"Midnight in Paris"
"The Help"
"War Horse"
"The Tree of Life"

So, is anyone else confused as to why they didn't just do 10 nominees? Having 9 is just as excessive. And saying there would be between 5 and 10 nominees made it hard for people to predict. They couldn't make some room for a Bridesmaids or a Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in a 10th spot? No real surprises here except for Extremely Loud... Most people had counted it out due to lukewarm reviews and lack of precursor awards, but apparently Stephen Daldry and Oscar can never be counted out. 

Best Actor
Demian Bichir, "A Better Life"
George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"

I think they forget to name Michael Fassbender. I thought that one was all but assured. This was Fassy's year! I'm glad to see that Leo didn't make the cut for J. Edgar. And pleased to see that Gary Oldman was finally able to get his first career nomination (about damn time). The main surprise here is obviously Demian Bichir. This year's Richard Jenkins. I know he got a SAG nomination, but did anyone see this coming? Everyone was predicting Michael Shannon as the surprise nominee.

Best Actress
Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis, "The Help"
Rooney Mara, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"

Poor Tilda. Passed over three years in a row now. Even when it looked like she was getting that fifth slot, they decided to go...younger. Remember when she won!? Come on, Academy! You used to like her. What happened? If I couldn't have Charlize, at least give me Tilda. It's come down to Meryl and Viola. And it's looking like Glenn Close will tie Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter as the actress with the most nominations without a win.

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, "My Week With Marilyn"
Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"
Nick Nolte, "Warrior"
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Max Von Sydow, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

This is Christopher Plummer's award. The other four nominees seem a little like place holders. Particularly that Nick Nolte nomination. His big dramatic scene was so ridiculously over-the-top that I couldn't stop laughing. I know the Academy was more embracing of comedy this year, but come on. Jonah Hill was good in Moneyball but I still can't wrap my head around the fact that he is now a Oscar Nominee. Especially when I think about all the people who have never been nominated. And, apparently, Kenneth Branagh has now been nominated in five separate categories in his career. 

Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer, "The Help"

Of the four acting categories, this is the only one that I correctly predicted all five nominees. They're all perfectly fine, but I'm not all that thrilled with any of them. So, congratulations to me? I'm just glad there's no Shailene Woodley. That was such an adequate performance that I never understood the Oscar talk to begin with. Thank god for little miracles. I know most people are excited about Melissa McCarthy. I am as well. It's such an unexpected performance to be nominated for an Oscar. Could this open the door for future comedic performances? I certainly hope so. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

My Oscar Wish List

I spend so much time each year trying to think like an Academy member and predict what will be nominated that I never really take that much time to consider what I want to be nominated. It's all about being right and making predictions based on what everyone is saying. But, aren't the Oscars supposed to be a celebration for great achievements in cinema that year? Shouldn't it be about the performance? So, in honor of what the Oscars stand for (in theory), I present not what I think will be announced tomorrow in the acting categories (the sidebar to the right will show you that), but one name in each of the acting categories that I would love to hear. Their performances stuck with me and they are deserving of recognition.
Best Actor

In the other three categories, I had no trouble coming up with someone who did amazing work but just seems to keep getting passed over at awards ceremonies this year. But, for a while, no one name jumped out at me in this category. Maybe because the heavy-hitter names Clooney, Pitt, and DiCaprio loom so large it overshadows the work of other less famous actors. Then it hit me. A talented young actor that has been building a great body of work over the years. This year he gave a performance that was emotionally draining, yet unsentimentally uplifting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 50/50. A comedy about someone with cancer shouldn't work, but in the hands of Gordon-Levitt the humor shines as much as the drama. He has an ease and naturalness on camera that can be taken for granted because it's so effortless. Even dramatic breakdowns never seemed forced because they come from a place of truth. He builds relationships with the other characters (Seth Rogan as his best friend, Anjelica Houston- equally sensational- as his mother, Bryce Dallas Howard as his unsympathetic girlfriend, and the young therapist played by Anna Kendrick) that are at once believable and relatable. 
As much as I would like to see it happen, I don't think  the Academy will remember his work tomorrow. But, without question, they have taken notice of Gordon-Levitt and someday soon I have no doubt we will be hearing his name called on the morning of Oscar nominations. 

Best Actress

This was definitely a good year for great work from Actresses. It was looking like a very interesting race for a while, but it seems that the five names to the right seemed to solidify pretty quickly. It's hard to deny a spot for such powerhouses as Mery Streep and Glenn Close. But, if any name can slip in and get a surprise, but well-deserved, nomination it would be Charlize Theron in Young Adult. That the former Oscar winner gives another wonderful performance is no shock. We know the girl can act. What's interesting about the character of Mavis Gary, the young adult novelist that returns to her hometown to win back her married ex-lover, is how unconventional she is. Men are allowed to play unlikable protagonists. Society makes excuses and accepts the fact that the nature of men is to do everything in their power to achieve their goals. Females, on the other hand, need to be made sympathetic or they're labeled a bitch. Charlize takes the conventions of what is expected from a female protagonist and unflinchingly gives us the portrait of a flawed woman who behaves without compromise. She's essentially playing a masculine prototype but never in a way that makes us ever doubt her femininity. 
In Monster, she's able to disappear into the character because she physically transformed into someone that looks nothing like herself. This character looks like the Charlize we know, but through costume and demeanor is presented in a way that is just as transformative. But, perhaps the greatest transformation is that the character remains the same by the movie's end. No great discovery is made. No new outlook on life is revealed. Other's may perceive her in an unflattering light, but she is never less than exactly who she is.

Best Supporting Actor

This category is really all over the place. Who would have ever thought that we would ever use the words 'Oscar nominee' and Jonah Hill in the same sentence? Which is why it surprises me that the scene-stealing work of Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris isn't getting more recognition. The film is Woody Allen's most successful to date and as soon as you've finished with the film the one question on everyone's mind is, who was that amazing actor playing Hemingway? The film is full of famous actors playing famous icons of the 20th Century- Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, Adrian Brody as Dali. Which is why it's so amazing that Stoll, a relative unknown theatre actor, was able to walk off with the film in about fifteen minutes of screen time. But, he does it in a way that is anything but theatrical. In fact, most of his lines are spoken in a quick-paced monotone. But, it's the lines themselves and the quite intensity and passion with which he brings to them that makes Stoll a stand-out. In interviews, Stoll has said that Woody didn't want him to study recordings of the real Hemingway because he wanted him to play the idea of Hemingway. To personify the written words of the author. But, never do we feel that Stoll's Hemingway is anything less than a real person. His portrayal of one of the most famous authors in history has a humanity and spirit that breathes life into a legend. 

Best Supporting Actress

The names being mentioned for this category all seem a little slight. Not one of them has the depth of emotion that Carey Mulligan brings to Shame. I've already talked at length about her performance in this film. Of all the performances I've seen this year, her's is the one that still stays with me. Mulligan's reward is the indelible work she has shared with us, but an Oscar nomination sure wouldn't hurt...

Best of luck to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlize Theron, Corey Stoll, and Cary Mulligan tomorrow. Thank you for sharing your talent with us.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

And the Oscar Goes to...Drew Barrymore?

You know those movies that look great on paper. The one's with Oscar winning directors and buzz-worthy actors that were just manufactured to win awards at year's end. Then the movie actually comes out. If it's not a disaster, it's so forgettable that you barely remember it once the credits start rolling. Joe Reid has created a great tumblr blog called This Had Oscar Buzz in which he's reminded us about all those movies that had their eye on Oscar but were lucky if they got a Razzie.

Some of these are a little bit of a stretch. Kingdom of Heaven- that didn't even have regular buzz. No one was talking about that movie when it came out nor did anyone actually see it. And some of these I barely remember as movies. The Life Before Her Eyes? What is that? Uma Thurman is in so many random movies that go straight to DVD or make $130 in their opening weekend. She needs some career counseling. Or at least get Quentin Tarantino to create a movie for her more often than every ten years.

I'd like to add some of my own to the list:

Love and Other Drugs (2010) 

I remember reading something early in 2010 talking about how great Annie Hathaway was in this movie. She played a woman with a disability, she got naked...a lot. She was guaranteed an Oscar nom. I'm not sure what movie those people saw at advanced screenings because the one I saw was horrendous. Annie Hathaway is one of those actors that I think I like more than I do. Then I actually see her in something and remember how forced and actory she comes across. It didn't help that the script seemed to be written by someone who's apparently never encountered real human behavior.

Amelia (2009)

Hilary Swank as Amelia Earhart seems like perfect casting. She's got that tomboy thing going on and actually bears a resemblance to the famed female aviator. Plus, she has two Best Actress Oscars (although, she only deserved one of them). But, Hilary Swank is never the right choice for most things (comedies, period pieces- all things she's attempted) and she falls flat in this by-the-numbers prestige biopic. Director Mira Nair has a visual flair but, like her Vanity Fair film, they are all surface and no substance.

Running With Scissors (2006)

The book was a huge success. It seemed everyone I've ever known had read it. There was an all-star cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, Evan Rachel Wood, Alec Baldwin, and Annette Bening in one of those roles that was tailor-made for awards. Everyone assumed that Bening was winning a Best Actress Oscar for playing the crazy mom. How wrong we all were. I think the blame falls on director Ryan Murphy who didn't seem to know what he was doing. (I fear for the fate of The Normal Heart film that was just announced.) My tolerance for slow motion set to a sappy 70's song reached it's breaking point while watching this movie.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Heavenly Creature

The new ad campaign for St. John Spring 2012 featuring Academy Award winner, Kate Winslet, hit the internets today and will be featured in print starting in February. This is the second season that Kate has been the face (or body) of the clothing line. I used to have a picture from her last St. John campaign as my laptop wallpaper (until it was replaced by Charlize). My roommate asked me if I was a middle-aged woman on the Upper East Side. If only. I'd be one step closer to being like Lucille Bluth when I get older. That is my goal in life. And isn't that just like Kate- always subconsciously trying to help me reach my goals. Winslet, you've done it again...

Oh, wind machine- Don't mind me. Just lounging on a fur rug, studying a script. The usual...

Jack, I want you to draw me like one of your French girls. Wearing this- a clutch and...bathrobe

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hugo Fails to Inspire

I finally got around to seeing Marty Scorsese's venture into 3-D, family-fun entertainment, Hugo, this past weekend. I was dragging my feet because I just had no interest. I felt similarly about seeing Moneyball. They just felt like a chore. Something you're just not interested in, but everyone says you have to. I was totally wrong about my feelings regarding Moneyball though. I'd hardly call myself a sports fan (um, shocker) and not really into sports movies in general. (Can someone explain why Warrior was so well reviewed? That movie was a giant sports movie cliché.) But, Moneyball found a way to make me engaged in a subject I normally could care less about. I can't say the same for Hugo...

Hugo takes a subject, the early days of filmmaking, that I am interested in, and somehow makes it lackluster.  The only parts of the film that actually did work for me were those scenes that revolved around early cinema. The rest of the story, involving an orphaned Hugo Cabret (played by the blank-faced, Asa Butterfield) living in a Paris train station, seemed disconnected from the story that obviously drew Scorsese to make the film. Everything involving kids and clocks and solving mysteries became tedious. It wasn't fun enough to appeal to childern nor was it smart enough to not bore adults. By the time we got to Georges Méliès, I kept wondering why the entire film hadn't just focused on him and his pioneering work in cinema.

Scorsese loves cinema- no one would question that. I'm just not sure why he so heavy-handedly keeps telling the viewer every other minute how amazing we should find it as well. We're at the movies- there's a good chance we already do feel the same way. The characters won't stop talking about how movies are like dreams while you're awake or something out of your imagination. The last thing I need is to be told that something is magical and enchanting. Show it to me and let me judge for myself. And all of the CGI backgrounds, green screens, and 3-D camerawork felt too cold and manufactured to ever actually produce something that was awe-inspiring. I wish Scorsese had taken more inspiration from those early Georges Méliès films and crafted things by hand with weight and dimension. Too often I think modern filmmaking relies too heavily on the computer, so you're always aware that it's not real. And for a movie that wishes to reach within your imagination, too often the awareness brings you harshly back to reality.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Don't Bruise the Gin, Sally

Jon Hamm confirmed the start of the 5th season of "Mad Men". So, mark your calendars for March 25! It's been so long since we've visited the gang at Sterling Draper Cooper Pryce. I can't wait to see what everyone's been up to. In just 76 days this will be back in our lives again:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Return of Downton Abbey

Break out your award winning flowers, ring up the valet, and make sure all the wine in the wine cellar is accounted for because the second season  of the Emmy Award winning series from Masterpiece Theatre,  Downton Abbey, starts tonight! (PBS 9PM EST) I'm not the only one excited for it. It's been a huge hit over in Britain where it's already aired. And judging from the eager anticipation here in the states, (its been featured in New York magazine and EW and it seems every blog and entertainment site is talking about it. My favorite is the quiz to find out which Downton character you are. I'm Lord Grantham. Boring. But, at least I get to live in a kick-ass castle/house.) it's sure to be the first must-see event of the new year.

I find it amazing that a period piece miniseries on public television has captured the public's attention the way that it has. I'll admit, I hadn't heard about it until the Emmys in September and was amazed that it won Best Miniseries or TV movie over the more publicized (and starrier cast) Mildred Pierce. But, luckily I was able to catch up on Netflix where all the episodes are Watch Instantly (All the episodes are also available online at PBS as well). My main question was, how did I live without this in my life before? Following the life of the Crawley family and their servants at the estate of Downton Abbey is an entertaining treat. Each episode unfolds in ways you don't always expect. You really care for these characters. Their lives may be from a different time and place, but their relationships and emotions are real. It's just great storytelling. 

In honor of the new season tonight, I have assembled a list of my five favorite characters and their goings on from Season One. Spoilers follow...

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Sum of Our Parts

"There are no small parts. Only small actors. You can quote me on that"-Lindsay Lohan Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen
Thanks, Lindsay. I just did. And while that may be true, can you identify the "parts" of these three famous actresses? You can judge for yourself if they are small or not. Leave your answers in the comments.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Stars of Stage and Screen

I know. I feel the same way.
~Just like the 1930's search to find the perfect actress to portray Scarlett O'Hara (even Lucille Ball auditioned), the world has waited with bated breath to find out who would be cast as Eponine in the film version of Les Misérables. The world now lets out a collective sigh- and perhaps a, what the hell?!- as it has been confirmed that Taylor Swift has been offered the role. So...congratulations? I thought Lea Michele had this in the bag. I'm sure she thought so as well. I bet tensions have been pretty high on the set of "Glee" these past couple of days:
"Hey Lea. Great job on that song."

"Thanks. But I guess not as good as Taylor Swift, huh?" and <scene>
Luckily, there is good news. Actual actress, very good singer, and downright beauty, Amanda Seyfried, was offered the role of Cosette. I actually had her in mind for that part when I was casting this in my head. So, good job for reading my thoughts on that one, casting directors. Now, if we could make just one small change to the rest of casting...

~Taylor's future costar, Tony Award Winner, Hugh Jackman, just finished the ten week run of his one man show on Broadway. But he's already booked his return engagement. Jackman has signed on to play the title character in a new Broadway musical about the life of Houdini. The musical is aiming to come to Broadway in the 2013-14 season and will feature music by Stephen Schwartz (GodspellWicked) and book by Oscar winner, Aaron Sorkin. I'm especially excited about the inclusion of Sorkin. He's such a smart, fast-paced writer, I'd be interested in how he can bring that to the world of musicals.  And Jackman is becoming quite the go-to musical theatre performer lately. I'm actually loving that the man who plays Wolverine in the X-Men movies is just a song and dance man. And who doesn't love a singing magician?

~Does Jessica Chastain ever sleep? In addition to starring in every movie that came out in 2011, it was announced today that the eventual Oscar nominee would be coming to Broadway in a new revival of The Heiress in the Fall of  2012. The play, based on the Henry James novel Washington Square, and the character of Catherine have always been an awards magnet. The most recent revival won a Best Actress Tony for Cherry Jones and the 1949 film version of the play brought Olivia de Havilland a Best Actress Oscar. I bet the Juilliard trained Chastain is thrilled to be making her Broadway debut. If Scarlett Johansson can win a Tony, Chastain better start clearing out her trophy case now...

~And, finally, just cause he's so darn cute, "Glee" star, Darren Criss, in the poster for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Criss took over last night for a three week run in the role previously played by Daniel Radcliffe. Apparently, he's no Harry. But a Jonas Brother will be taking his place shortly, so choose your tween heartthrob wisely...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Based on the Novel...

The HBO miniseries of Mildred Pierce directed by Todd Haynes and starring Kate Winslet, Guy Pearce, Melissa Leo, and Evan Rachel Wood is finally out today on DVD and Blu-ray. (If you prefer your Winslet more contemporary and sickly as opposed to Emmy-award-winning and motherly- you're in luck! Contagion is also out today. Anyone up for a Kate movie marathon?)
I've get you now Emmy. Tony-you're in my sights...
I know a lot of reviewers and viewers were a little disappointed in the final product. The comment I heard the most was that it was a little slow paced or, you know- boring. I actually saw the complete miniseries, all five and half hours of it, in one day at the Museum of Moving Image on Mother's Day. And it flew by. I didn't find it boring at all. I found it engaging and interesting. Watching mother and daughter, Mildred and Veda, going at each other was the perfect way to celebrate Mother's Day. It was all build-up for those last scenes between the two and Winslet and Wood really brought it. Eight months later, I still think about their confrontation scene in the bedroom.

I've seen the Joan Crawford version from the 40's as well and you can't really compare the two. The film from the 40's added a murder plot and had a film noir feel to it. Todd Haynes said that he wanted the miniseries to be more faithful to the book by James Cain. The miniseries length really allowed him to do just that. He was able to delve in, explore the relationships, and give them a real slow burn. So it had me wondering what other classic films based on hefty novels would benefit from an updated miniseries version? After the jump, my four picks...

Monday, January 2, 2012

10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012

It's the start of a new year-a time to look forward at what the year will bring. And it's looking like 2012 will bring, well, more of what we've come to expect at the movies. There's sequels (Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2) and superheroes (The Avengers) and sometimes both within the same film (The Dark Knight Rises). A pair of rival Snow Whites (Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman) will try to determine who is really the fairest of them all. (We all know Charlize is the answer to that!) And it seems modern twists on fairy tales (Jack the Giant Killer and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) will definitely be having a moment. Two very different Abraham Lincoln's will be hitting the screen uniting the union (Spielberg's Lincoln) and...fighting vampires (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). And that's just a sampling of what we have to look forward to. Join me as I present my 10 most anticipated movies of 2012 (in alphabetical order).
Anna Karenina 
(dir. Joe Wright) Fall 2012

The oft filmed Tolstoy classic is back! Watch out for trains...The famous tragic heroine has already been played by Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, and Sophie Marceau, just to name a few. So, why do we need another version? Well, this past year proved with Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre that good directors and new actors can bring a fresh take on a classic. And this new Anna Karenina comes to us courtesy of director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna), his muse, Keira Knightley, along with Jude Law and Aaron Johnson, working from a screenplay by Tom Stoppard. I got excited just typing that. This is Knightley and Wright's third film collaboration (he's also directed her in Chanel Commercials). Their first, Pride and Prejudice, brought a rustic beauty and lived-in, natural quality to what could have been a stuffy costume drama and also brought Knightley a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Perhaps the third time is the charm for Oscar...

(dir. Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman) June 22, 2012

Let's be honest, 2011 was not a very good year for animation. Rango was kinda weird and boring. And the scale of the characters to their environment and inconsistency on things annoyed me. Kung Fu Panda 2 was visually beautiful and fun, but felt a little like a rehash of the first film. The only Pixar movie I haven't seen is Cars. I can now add Cars 2 to that list. It seemed like the rest of America felt the same because, although successful, it is Pixar's least profitable film. Hopefully they can rebound with their 2012 offering, Brave. The film is a couple of firsts for Pixar. It's their first attempt at a fairy tale. The first time a woman has been at the helm (Chapman was replaced with Andrews late in production, but both are given credit). And it's the first time that the main character is a female. It's the story of Princess Merida in the ancient highlands of Scotland who makes a choice that affects her kingdom. With her archery skills, she must set things right. My favorite Disney animated films are the fairy tale stories (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Tangled) so it'll be interesting to see Pixar's take on something so distinctly Disney. And the visuals are gorgeous.
Cloud Atlas
(dir. Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski) October 2012

The directors of Run, Lola, Run and The Matrix films seem like a perfect match. In the late 90's, both films felt like something new and exciting. Bringing an entirely different approach to how a film can look visually. Over ten years later, their influence can still be seen in films today. For 2012, the three have paired up to make an ambitious film. Cloud Atlas is based on the novel by David Mitchell. Six different yet interconnecting stories span time and countries. Oscar winners, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Susan Sarandon join Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, and Hugh Grant. Each play multiple characters that cover different genders and races. The whole thing sounds so crazy. It could either be a disaster or, if they pull it off, a masterpiece. Here's hoping for the latter.

The Hunger Games, Les Miserables, and more after the jump...