Tuesday, February 1, 2011

postheadericon THE SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS

Oscar & Emmy Watch: Musings & Misgivings: Screen Actors Guild Awards 


Come home, Ricky Gervais, all is forgiven.
Honestly now, as movie-awards shows go, and of course we can never have enough of THEM, has there ever been a duller one than the 17th Screen Actors Guild ceremony? Telecast simultaneously on TWO basic-cable outlets, no less. This show didn’t sag, it sank.
Apart from the fact that there was no time wasted on lesser Hollywood craftspeople, you know, minor contributors like, say, writers, directors, cinematographers, editors, costumers and art designers; and apart from the fact that the broadcast had the feel of a union rally—albeit one with a spiffily dressed audience membership, one considerably more well-heeled, you can be sure, than the nearly 100,000 active members of SAG nation-wide who voted; and apart from the fact that there were neither hosts nor any traditional entertainment segments to inject the proceedings with actual fun, I am now formally and unapologetically rethinking my position on having even an incendiary host such as Gervais to ignite any kind of spark to leaden affairs such as this.
There’s not much that can be said of the show-biz value of the 17th SAG Awards telecast, but you can give it this: how many telecasts would give several shout-outs to the Teamsters? Jimmy Hoffa would have been proud.
The awards themselves only confirm what Oscar prognosticators already know—that the winners of the four major individual SAG awards provide an air of inevitability to their collecting the gold at the Feb. 27 Oscars. Those four are lead actors Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) and Natalie Portman (Black Swan); and supporting actors Melissa Leo and Christian Bale ( both for The Fighter). Further, the ensemble award for The King’s Speech, the night after its director Tom Hooper won the DGA Award (The Social Network’s David Fincher had been considered the strong favorite), lends added proof that this superb historical drama (with 12 Oscar nominations), and not The Social Network (with eight), is the consensus front-runner for Best Picture and numerous other Oscars, though Aaron Sorkin still appears to be a lock for adapted screenplay.
As for SAG’s TV awards, Julianna Margulies  (The Good Wife) and Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) were entirely deserving, individual comedy wins by Alec Baldwin(30 Rock) and 89-year-old Betty White (Hot in Cleveland) were minor surprises, and Boardwalk Empire’s ensemble-drama triumph broke the two-year streak of Mad Men. Modern Family won the TV ensemble comedy award (undoubtedly ticking off fans of Glee who probably considered it, along with Jane Lynch, shoo-ins for prizes).
If the SAG telecast did have one highlight, it was the 47th annual Life Achievement Award to 94-year-old Ernest Borgnine,  presented to him by Morgan Freeman (who appeared with him in Red) following a somewhat rambling, and definitely unfunny, introduction by his old McHale’s Navy costar Tim Conway. “There are millions of those in the world who would love to be in our shoes,” said Borgnine, who was visibly moved by the honor. “We are a privileged few who have been chosen to work in this field of entertainment.” A 1955 Best Actor Oscar winner for Marty who’s made more than 160 films, Borgnine has been one of our great unsung character actors for more than half a century. The SAG Awards was nothing to cheer about, but the heartfelt, long-overdue standing ovation for Borgnine was something any movie fan could applaud.



Tuesday, January 25, 2011

postheadericon Oscar & Emmy Watch: Musings & Misgivings: 2011 Oscar Nominations by Alan Appel

The first gasp from the over-caffeinated audience at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills came shortly after 5:40 AM (Pacific Time) with the very first announcement in the 2011 Oscar nominations. Javier Bardem, a supporting-actor winner a few years back for No Country for Old Men, received a Best Actor nod for Biutiful. Be honest now, who saw that coming? How many of you, in fact, have even SEEN this art-house film? A surprise like this meant two things: good news for the Bardem entourage, but disappointment for two other nomination-worthy actors who were pushed aside—in this case Ryan Gosling for Blue Valentine and Mark Wahlberg for The Fighter.

The Wahlberg omission is interesting. Let me see if I understand this: The Fighter gets nominations for Best Picture, Director (David O. Russell), Supporting Actor (Christian Bale), Supporting Actress (Amy Adams and Melissa Leo), Film Editing and Original Screenplay, but Wahlberg, giving the performance of his career in this gritty boxing drama, is shunted aside (though he is a producer of the film)?

His wasn’t the only snub. The box-office hit Inception gets a Best Picture nomination, but it is primarily the vision of one of Hollywood’s most boldly imaginative directors, Christopher Nolan, yet he is overlooked. Crazy. And what of The Social Network, which received eight nominations? Jesse Eisenberg did score a Best Actor nomination, but some (including myself) feel two things about this film. 1) It is wildly overrated and 2) The best performance of the film was given by Andrew Garfield, who was considered a shoo-in for a supporting nod—and didn’t get one.

Here’s the good news in the Supporting Actor category: the great Mark Ruffalo did indeed score his first nomination for The Kids Are All Right, though probably hasn’t a shot in hell of winning. Bale and Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech) are the favorites. Another highly touted contender was Mila Kunis for Black Swan in the Supporting Actress category. She didn’t get a nomination, and that now calls into question whether her costar in the film, Natalie Portman, is really such a lock-solid sure thing for winning the Best Actress prize. Momentum does seem to be building for two of her rivals, Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right) and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine). The good news in the Supporting Actress grouping is that young Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) received a nomination; the bad news is that Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right) didn’t.

Steinfeld’s nomination was one of 10 for True Grit, proving once again that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which shut it out completely at the Golden Globes, is something of a joke. Jeff Bridges, who won last year for Crazy Heart, is nominated again for the Rooster Cogburn role that won John Wayne the Best Actor Oscar in 1969, and also well deserved are the directing and writing nominations for Joel and Ethan Coen. James Franco, a co-host of the Oscar ceremony this year with Anne Hathaway) also received a Best Actor nomination, for 127 Hours.
The nominations champ, however, and what I’ve long contended is the film of the year, is The King’s Speech, with 12 nods. Nothing is ever certain in these Oscar derbies, but if Colin Firth doesn’t win Best Actor on Feb. 27, there will be even louder gasps (and, I would suggest, calls for a vote recount). Director Tom Hooper probably hasn’t much of a chance against The Social Network’s David Fincher, but The King’s Speech, now with a dozen nominations in the bank, has a legitimate shot at Best Picture.

Finally, might this at long last be the year when an animated film—in this case, Toy Story 3--wins Best Picture? Probably not, and not so long as the Academy continues to have an animated film competing against itself. Can someone please explain to me the point of having an Animated Feature Film Oscar (where Toy Story 3 is competing against How to Train Your Dragon and The Illusionist), with the same film showing up in two best-picture categories?


Saturday, January 22, 2011

postheadericon Predictions- Oscars Nominations Tuesday January 25

Oscar & Emmy Watch: Musings & Misgivings: Predicting the Oscar Nominations


In the wake of all the furious yapping and debate over Ricky Gervais’s performance last Sunday as Golden Globe Awards host—was he hilariously on the edge or hopelessly off the wall?—you’ll understand if few in Hollywood, a week later, still care a lick about that particular tempest. Or, for that matter, if they even remember who the night’s winners were. For Tinseltown’s movers and shakers, there are greater anxieties on the immediate horizon. Studio executives and stars, along with their agents, publicists, accountants and herbal therapists, can now officially break out the bottles of Maalox and steady their nerves awaiting the announcement of 2010 Oscar nominations on Tuesday morning, Jan. 25.
For the nominees, of course, it’s a big career boost followed by all the attendant press hoopla and interviews in which most utter—unconvincingly, to be sure--the even bigger lie: “It’s an honor enough just to be nominated.” Well, yes, it is an honor of sorts—just not enough of one to make up for not actually winning the big prize. And for those depressed souls shut out of a nomination, it’s a case of wait until next year—maybe. Award-worthy parts don’t come along often, and has been noted in this column before, even all-time greats such as Edward G. Robinson and Fred MacMurray went an entire career without a single acting nomination. So if, for example, the oddly underrated Mark Ruffalo, who’s never really given a bad performance in a solid career, misses out on his first nomination for The Kids Are All Right, who knows when, if ever, his next opportunity will come.
That being said, and having brewed the requisite tea leaves, here is how I see the six major categories shaping up:

BEST ACTOR
1. Colin Firth  ,The King’s Speech
2. James Franco  ,127 Hours
3. Mark Wahlberg , The Fighter
4. Jeff Bridges , True Grit
5. Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
*But watch out for: Robert Duvall, an Academy favorite, for Get Low. And is it really possible that Jesse Eisenberg will NOT be nominated for The Social Network? Being part of an ensemble film sometimes costs. There’s invariably one out-of-nowhere Indie that grabs major nominations—I’m thinking this year it’s Blue Valentine and that it propels Gosling. It does appear, however, that everyone but Firth is playing for second place. If there’s a sure thing come Oscar night (Feb. 27), it’s him.

BEST ACTRESS
1. Natalie Portman, Black Swan
2. Annette Bening , The Kids Are All Right
3. Michelle Williams , Blue Valentine
4. Jennifer Lawrence , Winter’s Bone
5. Julianne MooreThe Kids Are All Right
*But watch out for: Moore showing up in the supporting-actress category, with her spot here taken by Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole. This shapes up as a two-woman race between Portman and Bening.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Christian Bale, The Fighter
2. Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech
3. Jeremy Renner, The Town
4. Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
5. Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
*But watch out for: a sentimental nod to the late Peter Postlethwaite for The Town, or, if you like equally long shots, Guy Pearce for The King’s Speech or Matt Damon for True Grit. Maybe the single most competitive category—Bale’s the slight favorite, but they all have a legitimate shot.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Melissa Leo, The Fighter
2. Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
3. Amy Adams, The Fighter
4. Mila Kunis, Black Swan
5. Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
*But watch out for: whether Julianne Moore does indeed land in this category and push out the young Steinfeld. Leo gave the performance of her career and is the one to beat.

BEST PICTURE (10 nominations)
1. The King’s Speech
2. The Social Network
3. The Fighter
4. Inception
5. Black Swan
6. The Town
7. The Kids Are All Right
8. Toy Story 3
9. Blue Valentine
10. True Grit

BEST DIRECTOR
1. David Fincher, The Social Network
2. Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
3. David O. Russell, The Fighter
4. Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
5. Christopher Nolan, Inception
*But watch out for: Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan. Darker horses: Ben Affleck for The Town, and Lisa Cholodenko for The Kids Are All Right



Monday, January 17, 2011

postheadericon OSCAR AND EMMY WATCH: MUSINGS & MISGIVINGS:Golden Globes Debacle

Well, we know this much at least—if last night’s Golden Globes telecast was a train wreck, Ricky Gervais was the engineer.

There’s bawdy and then there’s bad. Not that overlong, self-inflated telecasts like the Golden Globe Awards can’t occasionally use a dash or two of bad taste, nastiness and even outright offensiveness (as opposed to the sometimes blinding garishness of, say, the Oscar ceremonies). But, c’mon now, stale, almost uniformly unfunny, way-past-their-expiration-date and at times cringingly unkind jokes about Charlie Sheen, “gay Scientologists,” the “airbrushed” cast of Sex and the City (“girls, we know how old you are. I saw one of you in an episode of Bonanza), Hugh Hefner as “the walking dead,” and even Robert Downey Jr.’s past legal and drug troubles are supposed to pass for entertainment? “Hugely mean-spirited” is how Downey described the proceedings at one point, and he had a point.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association deserves what it gets, and if Gervais wants to kid about corruption and bribes being the only explanation for the nominations for The Tourist, who’s to say he’s wrong. That’s called an easy target, and Gervais clearly had no intention of playing it safe, which is entirely fine. Shows like this need unscripted, on-the-edge spontaneity and unpredictability. The problem wasn’t the talented Gervais; it was his tone-deaf material. And why exactly he seemed to disappear for about an hour midway during the show (prompting Twitter jibes that he may have been either a) drunk or b) fired mid-broadcast) is a question that no one seems able to answer. “I want to do either such a bad job I’m not invited back,” Gervais earlier told the Chicago Sun-Times, “or such a good job that I don’t want to do it again.” Choose choice one.

If Gervais’s stand-up left much to be desired, what then to make of Robert De Niro’s odd speech accepting (from Matt Damon; what, Martin Scorcese couldn’t fly in from London for the event?) the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. Apparently channeling his inner Rupert Pupkin from The King of Comedy, De Niro, struggling with the cue cards, had his own ideas about being funny. “I’m sorry more members of the foreign press aren’t with us tonight, but many were deported right before the show along with most of the waiters. And Javier Bardem.” Leave it to the Golden Globes—suddenly Robert De Niro is Jim Carrey.

As to the other awards, there were hardly any major surprises, though the prizes for Al Pacino (You Don’t Know Jack) and Claire Danes (Temple Grandin) for best performances in a TV movie or miniseries were almost afterthoughts inasmuch as both won Emmys for their roles six months ago. What the Golden Globe movie winners foreshadow in terms of Oscar-nomination projections seem clear: The Social Network is the Best Picture to beat (along with its director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin); Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) and Natalie Portman (Black Swan) are heavy favorites in the lead actor categories; and The Fighter, gaining momentum by the week, has a strong pair of supporting-actor contenders in Melissa Leo and Christian Bale. Best Oscar dark horse: The Kids Are All Right and Annette Bening, both Golden Globe winners.

Finally, if the telecast had a single grace note and emotional high point, it was the appearance of Michael Douglas to announce the final award. “There’s just got be an easier way to get a standing ovation,” said Douglas, and for once, the applause and cheers from the audience seemed heartfelt and genuine.




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Sunday, January 16, 2011

postheadericon Oscar&Emmy Musings: Manage the Odds on The Golden Globes

 We will certainly be watching NBC’s telecast of the Golden Globes on Sunday, Jan. 16, and wondering if the most accurate predictions of this glitzy 68th annual event may be coming from . . . bookmakers? Yes, in a culture where we can seemingly bet on anything, the Vegas odds-makers have established clear Golden Globe favorites, and where money is involved, attention must be paid. Let’s break out the seven major movie categories:

  • Best Actor/Drama: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) is their 1-4 overwhelming top choice, and nowhere here (or in the Oscars, rest assured) is there a surer thing.
  • Best Actor/Comedy or Musical: Johnny Depp (for Alice in Wonderland; he’s also nominated for The Tourist) is the 3-2 favorite in a very weak field, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a 7-2 long-shot like Kevin Spacey (Casino Jack), a two-time Oscar winner and a fave with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, wins the prize and rides it to another Oscar nomination.http://static.technorati.com/11/01/11/24881/NATALIE-PORTMAN-BLACK-SWAN.jpg
  • Best Actress/Drama: No suspense here. Natalie Portman  (Black Swan) is the 1-3 choice, and I’m thinking that three of the nominees here—Portman, Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) and Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole) have Oscar nominations in their future.
  • Best Actress/Comedy or Musical: Annette Bening  (The Kids Are All Right) is the strong 1-3 top selection, and, along with Portman, may be an Oscar favorite. Her costar in the film, Julianne Moore, is also a nominee, but more likely to get a Supporting Actress nod for the Oscars.
  • Best Picture/Drama: The Social Network is the 3-2 favorite, but I’m picking an upset here, the 3-2 second choice, The King’s Speech. Expect all five nominees in this category to get five of the 10 Oscar Best Picture nominations, these two, as well as The Fighter, Inception and Black Swan.
  • Best Picture/Comedy or Musical: An easy win for future Oscar nominee, The Kids Are All Right.
  • Best Director: David Fincher (The Social Network) has already won numerous prizes, including those from New York and Los Angeles Film Critics, and this past week earned a Directors Guild of America nod. He’s the 1-3 man to beat here, but Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), another DGA nominee, is a strong second choice.

Monday, January 10, 2011

postheadericon Oscar & Emmy Watch: Musings & Misgivings: Holiday Presents

I’m as list-addicted as the next guy, but rather than yet another of those ubiquitous best-of-2010 compilations, and in the spirit of holiday giving, we’ll instead reflect in this last column of the year on two particular video gifts--one a repeat of a September conversation with a television icon, the other a barely remembered movie from 1937 without a single star--that have much to say about, in the first instance, a celebration of life, and in the second, the dissolution of family ties. Both telecasts may have escaped your attention but shouldn’t have. See them and they will stay with you. And maybe change you.


The TV show was CNN’s Christmas Week repeat of a conversation between its Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and actor Michael J. Fox . It’s a remarkable, life-affirming one-on-one broadcast in which Fox talks with considerable clarity, courage, grace, optimism and even humor about his coping with, and work on behalf of, Parkinson’s disease, which he’s had for 19 years.

“It’s the gift that keeps on taking,” he says, “but it is a gift because it’s opened me up to a more compassionate, curious, risk-taking person. I wouldn’t call the [Parkinson’s] foundation my magnum opus, but it’s definitely the most important thing I have ever done or will probably do in my life.” What do doctors know and not know about the disease? What medications work—and for how long? What of stem cell research? And brain surgery? Fox is inspiring and has a lot to say and to teach us about helping others, and appreciating even in the most trying circumstances, what we have.

The “forgotten” classic that TCM showed Christmas Eve (and is also now available on DVD) was 1937’s Make Way for Tomorrow.  Leo McCarey won the first of his two directing Oscars for The Awful Truth (the second came in 1944 for Going My Way), but even he acknowledged that Make Way for Tomorrow is the superior film and perhaps the best thing he ever did. Few saw the film then and not many know of it today for two simple reasons: no stars and its downbeat subject matter--old age. “My God,” Orson Welles told interviewer Peter Bogdanovich. “That is the saddest movie I have ever seen.” You may feel the same way.

The story deals with a devoted elderly couple, Lucy and Barkley Cooper (brilliantly portrayed by two of Hollywood’s all-time character actors, Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore), who lose their house to a bank foreclosure. None of their five children who have left the nest can take in both of them, so each parent reluctantly goes to live, hundreds of miles apart, with a different child. What follows is an alternately disturbing and tender tale of a long, loving marriage shattered by times that are hard and grown children, even some well-meaning ones, who are unable to square their parents’ needs with their own. As the story unfolds there are no false sentiments or facile judgments; no one is necessarily to blame.

What happens to the Coopers—suddenly losing not only one another and then, as time passes, shreds of their dignity and control of their own destiny--seems both painful and inevitable. The timeless role-reversal message it imparts about how to truly honor our mother and father when their independence is gone and they’ve become our dependents is as emotionally relevant and wrenching today as it was more than 70 years ago. During the climactic scene on a railway platform, it will be difficult for you to not shed a tear.

And on that cheerful note, a happy New Year to all!

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postheadericon OSCAR AND EMMY WATCH: MUSINGS & MISGIVINGS--Make Em Laugh!

It’s a time for holiday cheer, so I figured I would get in the mood by canoodling around the house humming two of the Golden Globe-nominated songs from that magnum opus Burlesque, “Bound to You” and “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” until I remembered, who the hell has ever HEARD of these songs much less knows how to sing them?
No, let’s try another tack—all the laugh-out-loud comedies of 2010 that have given us such a rollicking time and provided much needed belly laughs,

Maybe if I recall the good times we all had at the screen hilarity that lightened our heavy loads, that would definitely put me in a more convivial frame of mind. Until, I thought, has there really BEEN a single comedy this past year that has been any good? Not really, even when a Hollywood heavyweight like James L. Brooks—the guy, after all, who gave us Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News and As Good As It Gets-- produces such a tepid Reese Witherspoon -Paul Rudd-Owen Wilson-Jack Nicholson vehicle like How Do You Know, we know it’s been a tough year.

Funny, but James L. Brooks will likely get another pass, but when an enduring master like Woody Allen  produces genuinely funny, if inconsequential, films like, say, Hollywood Endings or Whatever Works, he’s harpooned again for producing “just” another mainstream comedy, and not another masterpiece like Annie Hall, Manhattan or Hannah and Her Sisters. The double standard is alive and well in Hollywood and simply making audiences laugh is apparently no longer enough.

But it was certainly enough for two wonderful comic artists who recently died—actor Leslie Nielsen and writer-director Blake Edwards . Nielsen, a sturdy, nondescript movies and television leading man of the 1950s and ‘60s, reinvented himself as a brilliant, deadpan farceur with 1980s’s Airplane! a relentless exercise in sight gags, puns, non sequitors and manifest foolishness. As many of us do, Allen was among those who copped to having a soft spot for Airplane! And Nielsen surely--whether or not you call him “Shirley”—helped showcase this new genre spoofing disaster, cop and other films.

And Edwards (a recipient of an honorary Oscar in 2004), who helped make his name with such classics as Breakfast at Tiffanys, Days of Wine and Roses, 10 and Victor/Victoria, left behind perhaps a more indelible—or at least funnier—mark as the creative force behind the Peter Sellers Pink Panther films.

One of the better Mel Brooks comedies, 1981’s History of the World: Part I, has a delicious vignette on the French Revolution, complete with memorable lines (“don’t get saucy with me, Bearnaise!” and, of course, “it’s good to be the King”). You’ve got to hand it to those down trodden late-18th-century French; they knew how to settle a score with the aristocracy. Now, during these profoundly hard economic times, when avaricious corporate/financial interests and dunderhead politicians are turning millions of hurting middle-class families into the new peasant class, I suppose we should be grateful that no one today is storming the Capitol.
But I do wonder: do they still have guillotines?

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