Thursday, April 28, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 trailer

Phew.  That was a mouthful.  Below.

Reactions?  I don't know if you can not be excited about this movie and have been born after 1985.  The book series was such a seminal part of our collective childhood, and the movies have been a fun ride.  David Yates has turned out to be the series's best director, and I'm glad he ended up finishing out the franchise.  Prepare for standout performances from Alan Rickman as the ever-mysterious Snape and Emma Watson as fiery Hermione (who, for the first time in the the first installment of Deathly Hallows, was the breakout performance of a film).  I'm on the edge of my seat to see how Yates and co. handle my favorite chapter in the entire book series: "The Prince's Tale."

Last year's great Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 was a good teaser for it's follow-up, which should prove not only to be the best of the series, but hopefully one 2011's best.  Try not to get teary-eyed while watching.  Just try.

Mentally, I've already prepared myself to scream when Mrs. Weasley has her brilliant moment during the Battle of Hogwarts.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Give Me Moore Sarah Palin, please

And you thought Tina Fey looked like the former Alaskan governor and GOP VP candidate.

This is the first photo of four-time Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore as Palin in HBO's upcoming film, Game Change.  Pretty uncanny, isn't it?  Maybe Moore will be crowned an Emmy champ before she gets her due at the Oscars.

I have some trepidations about this film, since the last presidential biopic I saw (Oliver Stone's W.) left a bad taste in my mouth.  Making Moore look exactly like Palin surely will help viewers know what's going on and add to the film's visual accuracy, but there's always the fear of a campy performance waiting in the wings.  Much like Thandie Newton and the over-the-top cast of W., who looked the part but the extent of believability ended there.  But it is HBO after all, so it's got to be good...right?

Here's looking for the first photo of Ed Harris as John McCain.

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter. Photo: AwardsDaily)


Monday, April 25, 2011

Another Earth trailer drops

The official trailer for this Sundance hit is finally here.  Another Earth is from first time director Mike Cahill, who also co-wrote the film with its star Brit Marling.  I like where this film seems to be going, and I more like the fact that it's an Indie film that's going there.  I've enjoyed the Art House meets Sci-fi products like District 9 and Moon, and I certainly hope this continues that quality partnership.  One can only imagine if a studio got their hands on an original idea like this.  Such a fun concept, I really hope the film lives up to the ridiculously good trailer.

I don't usually post movie trailers because as a rule I don't usually get very excited over them (I'd rather read about the movie and see it, and there's something fundamentally of watching a movie trailer online; doesn't it feel more at home in a theatre?).  But on a whim, I watched this without really knowing the premise.  The premise is straightforward enough and quite obvious given the film's title.  I suggest watching this.  It looks awesome.

Oh, and for those reads who wants a full-on synopsis, it's below.
Rhoda Williams [Marling], a bright young woman recently accepted into MIT’s astrophysics program, aspires to explore the cosmos. John Burroughs [Lost's William Mopother], a brilliant composer, has just reached the pinnacle of his profession, and is about to have a second child with his loving wife. On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, tragedy strikes, and the lives of these strangers become irrevocably intertwined. Estranged from the world and the selves they once knew, the two outsiders begin an unlikely love affair, which reawakens them to life. But when one of them is presented with the opportunity to travel to the other Earth and embrace an alternative reality, which new life will they choose?

The film's two beautiful posters are after the cut

Yearly Perspective – 2002 – Supporting Actor Edition

In case you missed my explanation of Yearly Perspectives or my 2002 Best Director analysis, please check them out.  

Pound for pound, throughout the history of the Oscars—and film in general—supporting men are always the strongest.  At least for me.  In a male-dominated film industry, men are typically allowed to be more “out there” and can inhabit less typecast roles.  Grieving wives and hookers fill a good portion of historic supporting female performances, but supporting males and their types are all over the board.  It’s just the strongest race and usually the most interesting array of nominees.

Except for 2002.  There’s no question the eventual, shockingly-inspired winner Chris Cooper was a great choice and totally deserved the win.  I’d rank his no-holds-barred performance among some of the best work done in the 00s.  But his competition in 2002 was relatively weak.  The platoon of Christopher Walken in Catch Me If You Can, Ed Harris in The Hours, John C. Reilly in Chicago, and Paul Newman in Road to Perdition we nipping at the champ’s heels.  His closest competition was likely SAG and BAFTA champ Christopher Walken for his wacky and tender turn in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can.  A likely cause for his SAG win was that the young awards organization hadn’t yet rewarded the acting vet, unlike the Academy did in 1978.  That’s not to say his performance wasn’t very good.  In fact it was fine; just fine.  One of those performances that aren’t championship caliber, but are good enough to make the top five.  A filler nominee.  He was subtle in his Walken sort of way, but wasn’t even the best supporting turn in the film if you ask me.

It’s hard to believe Ed Harris’s last nomination was nine years ago.  For an actor who so quickly raked up four nominations (only took him eight years), the latter portion of the 00s have not been friendly to this actor’s actor.  A mass of buzz met distribution woes last year in Peter Weir’s The Way Back, and a series of baity flops have kept Harris dry this decade.  But his last nominated performance as a haunted AIDS-ridden poet in Stephen Daldry’s lyrical The Hours was probably his best.  Though his screen time in The Hours is quite small, his impact in unspeakable.  As Virginia Woolf’s tragic poet, Harris brought a sense of frailty to the role that I don’t think most actors would have found.

With Chicago’s John C. Reilly, you have somewhat of the surprise nominee in the category on Oscar morning (what with Alfred Molina’s libido-ridden painter in Frida, and the duel attack of Dennis Quaid and Dennis Haysbert from Far From Heaven snatching a strong majority of the precursor nominations).  Reilly made quiet acting seem powerful, and made effective use of his single song and subtle role.  As Amos, he was charged with a difficult task, one that, should he falter, the film would ultimately fail.  He was the moral compass, we must not only want to root for him, but feel compelled to in a sea of tricksters, lies, and erroneous lawyers.  One of those performances where an actor does their job, and in doing so, turns in a good performance.  (On a related side note, I constantly go back and forth between Richard Gere’s category placement in the same film, and momentarily, I’m considering him Lead).  It's a shame that he's yet to return to this level of performance after sinking into the slapstick depths of Will Ferrell comedies.

Then there’s Paul Newman—in his last live action role—as a mob boss with a heart of gold in Sam Mendes’s Road to Perdition.  I won’t whine too much about his nomination, as I’m more indifferent to it than anything.  If you ask me, Jude Law was handedly better in the same film, but then again it would have been hard as a voter to deny a screen legend a nomination for doing such quality work at his age and in his sixth decade of acting.  It’s a stalwart performance in a gem of a film (added bonus from Perdition: pre-James Bond Daniel Craig).  He’s strong, reserved, and commands the screen whenever graces them with his blue eyes.  Looking back, it’s really hard to understand how more voters weren’t swayed by the Legend status, but I for one am glad they weren’t.  His final scene is beyond beautiful, specifically in how he demonstrates leagues of emotion with merely an accepting glance.

Then we’ve the oh-so deserving victor: Chris Cooper.  A character actor’s character actor.  Unfortunately, Spike Jonze’s Adaptation was a hit and miss during the 2002 awards season, taking both supporting Golden Globes, then a SAG loss by Cage and Cooper (and a Streep snub there to boot), and finally a trio of BAFTA losses coupled with an inspired screenplay win.  So the fact that this film eked out a performance win is a relief.  And I’m very glad it was Cooper.  As spoken numerous times within Adaptation, “[John] Laroche is such a great character,” and in reality it’s nothing short of the truth.  Toothless and philosophical aren’t exactly conductors for critical praise or an Oscar, but Cooper manages it with ease.  He plays an eccentric, which as a character type shows up time and time again in the Best Supporting Actor race, and they can either be histrionic misfires or divine homeruns.  Paired against the near-perfect performances of previous Oscar-champs Meryl Streep and Nicolas Cage, he steals the show.  I simply can’t say enough about his performance.  How can you deny a character the convincingly says in complete earnest, “I’m probably the smartest person I know”?  If you haven’t seen it—or Adaptation—I highly suggest checking adding it to the top of your queue.

But to me, only three of these men deserved a nomination, and surprisingly neither of the two legends made my cut.  So, we keep Reilly, Harris, and Cooper.  But what of the other two?  As I said earlier, I was indifferent to both Walken and Newman—I don’t hate their performance, but rather, I just don’t merit either as awards quality.  However, there is a performance in Catch Me If You Can that I would find worthy of such praise, and it’s Tom Hanks.  Aptly handling a brilliant screenplay by Jeff Nathanson, Hanks is the glue which holds the film together.  He never attempts to make the role cliché or sappy, but rather he plays the role straight as a human being rather than a man on a mission.  Too easy the cat of the cat-and-mouse role is left devoid of personality or soul, but Hanks delivers a man with both infused.  His frankness with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Frank Abagnale Jr. is his strength; treating the cunning con man as a kid instead of a mastermind, and thereby always having the upper hand in their latter conversations.  Also too, he makes it a fun performance, capturing the buffoonish nature of so smoothly being had by a teenager.  The final scene in the airport is his strongest: imbuing the feeling of being both enthralled by and sorry for a kid who’s lost in the world.  Sure his accent is a little questionable at times, but thankfully that doesn’t impede his performance.

My final nominee is someone who likely would have gotten a nomination had him getting a nomination been legal under Academy by-laws.  Don’t quote me on this, but I’m fairly certain voice-performances, even those done in motion-capture, are not eligible for a nomination at the Academy Awards.  So, even though what Andy Serkis did as Gollum in the second installment of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is nothing short of master class acting, he wasn’t even allowed on voting ballots.  He would repeat this perfect puppetry three years later in Jackson’s King Kong as the title ape, and with equal character study on scale with that of Sean Penn in Milk or Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote.  As Gollum, Serkis crawled, gouged, and hopped his way to a character that is unquestionably the most famous of the franchise, and with good reason.  Every scratch in his voice, every movement and eye glance is 100% Serkis’s.  No amount of CGI can airbrush desperation and devotion like the human actor can.  Simply for discovering such a perfect character within Tolkein’s work is enough for a nomination, and pulling it off is nearly worth a win.

So there you have it.  My Yearly Perspective on the 2002 Best Supporting Actor race with comments on the real nominees and my personal selections.  Expect Best Actress later this week.

***Chris Cooper, Adaptation.***
Andy Serkis, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Ed Harris, The Hours
John C. Reily, Chicago
Tom Hanks, Catch Me If You Can


Saturday, April 16, 2011

REVIEW: Scream 4

(dir. Wes Craven, 2011)

I like tacky movies.  Sue me.

The plight of Sidney Prescott continues.  One of horror’s most prolific survivors (Neve Campbell returns as the scream queen) needs to ward off Ghostface for a fourth time when she returns to her hometown to promote her new memoir “Out of Darkness.”   Also returning to scathe death are series regulars, and former Scream romance, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, now reformed trash reporter and town sheriff respectively.  Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s Scream series is successful because it caters to an intelligent audience.  The first three Screams commented on—literally—and played with certain slasher clichés, most famously asking of every opening scene heroine “What’s your favorite scary movie?”

Only 4 pictured survive,
can you spot them?
The reason these movies work, and why Scream 4 works, is because he characters talk about what’s just about to happen to them, and the viewer is either surprised that the cliché has happened or surprised that it’s broken.  Since the franchise’s last installment 11 years ago, the horror genre has gone from pseudo thriller/mysteries and more torture porn with awful characters.  Scream had fun character you actually cared about and missed once Ghostface cut them down.  The fourth installment is no different, touting fun fleshed-out characters like Sidney, but also her niece cum new lead, a duo of film geeks, Arquette’s awkward love stalker/deputy sheriff, and Sidney’s pottymouthed press agent.  Because of this horror rarity, what we experience is a true combination of horror and mystery; you’re always looking for clues, eliminating suspects, and trying not to be fooled by oh-so juicy red herrings.

In the end Scream 4’s self-aware tackiness is what makes is succeed.  It’s what made my entire theatre applaud and scream when the final you-can-see-it-coming-from-a-mile-away line is delivered before the killer is taken down.  You can get away with those type of lines, and even celebrate them, if they are handled with finesse, which—in the hands of apt Craven and clever Williamson—they are.

The twist and reveal, as it turns out, is ultimately a little disappointing since none of the red herrings pan out (not that they should, yet I was foolish to believe I was onto something), thus making the killer and the motive seem forced, if not a little uncomfortably self-reflective on society.  The problem is…you don’t believe it, which, for me, it something than simply can’t be forgiven. 

New "Sidney" Emma Roberts can't
escape her family's ghosts
For all the film’s smarty-pants horror movie references, I was a little surprised when Halloween: Resurrection wasn’t mentioned.  Scream is a franchise, much like Halloween, where the main killer fruitlessly tries to kill the same person over and over, and in Halloween: Resurrection Michael Myers finally kills the star of the franchise Jamie Lee Curtis.  For a series hell-bent on commenting-on and breaking established slasher film rules, the least they could do is drop a knowing reference to a series that famously killed out someone who has survived 4 films.  Yet, in Scream 4, you never know if the returning heroes are going to live or die…not even Sidney is safe.

I liked Scream 4, and on a good day, I might even say I loved it.  It was one of the most fun times I’ve had in a multiplex in quite a while.  When you hook the audience, you know you’re golden.  Scream 4 isn’t a masterpiece, but it is the best movie I’ve seen all year.  GRADE: B

Number of movies Sam has been in 2011 including Scream 4: 1


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yearly Perspective – 2002 – Best Director Edition

I've been doing an intensive Yearly Perspective of 2002 lately.  And by “intensive,” I mean intensive.  Usually when I try and do these, it takes a few months, since getting together unseen movies is more challenging than not.  But when you run across an easy year like 2002, you don’t have to do much work. 

Scorsese on set of Gangs of New York

In a rare occurrence, only 12 films are represented in the 20 acting categories (Chicago, About Schmidt, The Hours, Adaptation., Road to Perdition, Catch Me If You Can, Unfaithful, Frida, Far From Heaven, The Quiet American, Gangs of New York, and The Pianist).  Two other films with no acting nominations were up for Best Picture (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) and Best Director (Talk to Her).  Add to that three other films nominated for their scripts alone in the Original and Adapted Screenplay categories (About a Boy, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Y Tu Mama Tambien).  As far as the major categories go, that’s a mere 17 films filling up a total of 40 nomination slots.  Without throwing more statistics in your face, that amount of overlap is very rare.  This even carries over into the tech categories, which repeat the aforementioned titles often, with peppering of Spider-Man, 8 Mile, and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones thrown in there for good measure.  With such a small pool of films to get a hold of, doing a Yearly Perspective is not out of the question.

Almodóvar winning Original
Screenplay for Talk to Her
Much has been written of 2002’s Best Actor race, which featured an un-nominated nobody besting four previous winners in a shocker which resulted in one of the most memorable Oscar moments this decade.  One would assume that such a category would be the strongest or most stacked race of the year, but in this humble film watcher’s opinion, the Best Director race reigned supreme.  It had a legend, a fugitive, and three openly gay men.  Look at the nominees: winner Roman Polanski for The Pianist, Rob Marshall for Chicago, Martin Scorsese for Gangs of New York, Pedro Almodóvar for Talk to Her, and Stephen Daldry for The Hours.  Add to that highly impressive slate of nominees the un-nominated-yet-still-brilliant work of Peter Jackson on Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Spike Jonze for Adaptation, Adrian Lyne for Unfaithful, Julie Taymor for Frida, and Sam Raimi for Spider-Man and you’ll be hard-pressed to compile a list of just five yourself.  At least I know I am.  Add into the mix directorial achievements I myself am not so fond of, but others enjoy: Todd Haynes on Far From Heaven, Alexander Payne for About Schmidt, Christopher Nolan for Insomnia, Paul Thomas Anderson for Punch-Drunk-Love, Sam Mendes for Road to Perdition, and Steven Spielberg for Catch Me If You Can.  Coming up with five yet that you love most?  I didn’t think so.

Lord of the Rings doesn't "count as one!"
For what it’s worth, it is very, very hard to argue with the Academy’s choices.  What Polanski did with a dried and overwrought genre was miraculous, and with his personal, emotional injection of verisimilitude you felt like a refugee alongside Brody; it was epic in scope, yet small in its careful and calculated vision.  Marshall, quite simply, reinvented the movie musical, setting a standard in the enlivened genre that he himself couldn’t even live up to; his strong, creative point-of-view took the movie musical out of the land of suspended disbelief and made it realistic.  Scorsese, with his legendary attention to detail, aptly adapts his typical gangster style to the brute thuggary of Civil War era New York City.  Daldry masters a trio of women and one standout Ed Harris to tell a story that’s spans decades and beautifully mixes poetry and self-discovery.  Finally, the Lone Director Almodóvar (lone director: a nominated helmer whose film isn’t up for Best Picture, a term now likely dead due to the Best Picture 10).  In no small part thanks to his brilliant screenplay, Almodóvar guides the viewers through a tale of love, obsession, and friendship, with stylized excellence; continuously boarders on creepy, beautiful, haunting, and charming.  Hard to argue with them, huh?

Polanksi even make Chipotle looks exciting
However, I’d only nominate two of them.  It’s that dandy of a year.  Okay, let’s keep Polanski and Marshall, sorry Marty, Steve, and Pedro.  For starters, how Peter Jackson wasn’t recognized for his masterful work on The Two Towers is beyond me.  His direction in the trilogy is never stronger than it is here, where he manages to make trees throwing rocks seems as exciting as Orc decapitation; it’s his balance of backstory, battle, and psychological discovery that makes a three hour epic seem like a breeze.  Spike Jonze made a Charlie Kaufman story work, which by and large is nomination-worthy in general, but with his assemblage of three performances giving some of their career-best work and balancing the irony with the action in Kaufman’s script, it’s hard not to applaud Jonze.  Finally—and in an unconventional choice, truth be told—I have Adrian Lyne for his subtle, yet oftentimes heavy-handed, work on Unfaithful.  Whatever happened in Lyne’s life that made him so apt at tales of infidelity (director of Fatal Attraction) must hold a strong place in his consciousness.  What he does with Unfaithful is nothing short of marvelous; going from steamy stairwell sex to murder to tight family drama with precision and focus is what makes the film work.  Hard to cut it off there.

Stephen Daldry on set
So who’s the best?  Well Roman Polanski won the Oscar.  Deservingly so.  However, not my personal choice.  For a while, it was Jackson if only because The Two Tower is my favorite of the trilogy.  But really, I think Marshall handedly has the finest direction of 2002.  Yes, some of the perspective of the film (it’s all in her mind!) should be credited to screenwriter Bill Condon, Marshall is the man who made it come alive and function as a film.  Each frame is so carefully orchestrated; each performance is just over-the-top enough to fit into a musical and without being campy.  His touch is ever-present all over the film: the sexiness, the style of musicality, and most importantly the overall architecture and look of Chicago.  Not to mention, he choreographed the whole kitten caboodle too, a feat which deserves an Oscar if only for the 10 minutes of “Cell Block Tango.”

So there you have it.  My Yearly Perspective on the 2002 Best Director race with comments on the real nominees and my personal selections.  If all goes according to plan, one of the acting categories should be next.

***Rob Marshell, Chicago***
Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Roman Polanski, The Painist
Spike Jonze, Adaptation.
Adrian Lyne, Unfaithful


Friday, April 8, 2011

A Word on Watching Older Movies

Everyone has their own reasons for watching older films.  Some do it because they like the memories old black and white films bring up, others do so to capture a director's or an actor's filmography, and some purely for entertainment.  I do it for all these reasons, but given the opportunity, I do it for another.  Yearly Perspective.

To understand exactly what I mean, you have to understand my philosophy on the Oscars.  I talked about it in an earlier blog, but I'll do some quick summarization for you.  I don't prescribe to the notion that the Oscars award the best films of the year, but rather they highlight some of the best in their nominations, just not necessarily their winners.  What I like most is trying to get into the mindset of someone deciding those races, as a voter.  And to do this well, you have to see all the nominees in all the races in all (or most of the important) categories.  For example, seeing all the Best Picture nominees of 1999 (and other major categories) before claiming that American Beauty is my favorite of the year.  This isn't simply for personal annual awards, but rather, to see how everything stacks up.  There are a ton of winners out there that get panned because they don't hold up over other winners...but in many of those cases, the year itself was weak in that category.

Recently, I've been diving back into 1987, 1991, and 2002.  Here and there, seeing as many films from those years as possible that I hadn't seen before and figuring out what I like best.  In the grand scheme of things, this process is more for my amusement.  I like it because it allows me some concentration on a year, much like I get to do when I'm living out and following the current Oscar race.  When you're in the middle of an Oscar season, you're granted time to mull over your favorites, seeing how certain performances relate to each other and how they are dwindled to five nominees.  In concentrating retrospectively, you get to do the same thing.  Most people revisit a movie, and then watch another one that was made 30 years earlier, and then go see Hop the next day.  I just find this activity interesting, it's a fun investigation of one particular year of at the Oscars.  Only then can you say with confidence just which film is your favorite of any given year.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Belated Birthday of Heath Ledger

April 4th was Heath Ledger’s birthday.  He would have been 32.  This anniversary serves as a reminder of just how sad his passing was three years ago, and how many more great performances he had in store.  After he stared in the critically-acclaimed Brokeback Mountain, he was hailed as the next Marlon Brando.  Unfortunately, his story took a James Dean-esque twist instead.

I knew and understood the Brando comparison back in 2005, when I was still in high school.  It you watch any Brando film—On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Fugitive Kind, etc.—you see how much he disappeared into a role, how much of his body he committed to the part.  In lieu of making dialog work for him, he made the space in between the lines marks of brilliance.  Brando never hid behind lines; rather he internalized them, making it appear his character would burst if the line wasn’t spoken.  Think of “Stelllllaaaaa!” think of the scene where he opens the bottle of champagne in Streetcar, think of him trying on Eva Marie Saint’s glove in Waterfront.  Brando discovered the small things within a role, and used them to define the part.  Ledger did this too.

Look no further than his two most honored performances, that of Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain and The Joker in The Dark Knight.  Rarely do you see a multiple Oscar nominee represented with two such vastly different roles.  But Ledger managed it.  Say what you want about his posthumous success with The Joker, but we all know he deserved the praise and would have won had he been alive.  Look at him in Brokeback.  Minimalism at its finest.  He mumbles through his lines like a man trying to find himself, simply lost.  He’s hiding from himself, so he hides what he says.  Each of his lines in that film is delivered with such a painful hint of self-loathing, and of fear, not of society, but of himself—of the truth.  The final scene where he cradles Jake Gyllenhaal’s bloody shirt is something of pure wonder; an actor so clearly understanding what the character is going though, and delivering on the demanding cathartic moment.  So much in the body, so much character study, so much devotion.

The same can be said for his instant-classic turn as The Joker.  Actors reinvent characters all the time, but never before had it been done to this magnitude.  Sparing some of the ad nauseum details about the role, it was perfect.  Like Brando, he took small things and made them powerful.  For instance, when another actor would have sat quietly in the jail cell, Ledger began applauding—something that wasn’t in the script—and suddenly that’s a memorable scene from the movie.  His slithery devouring of lines is nothing short of genius, even changing throwaway lines into unintended punchlines (“Very poor choice of words” anyone?)

I was already a huge fan of Ledger when he passed, and like most of America, probably more so after seeing The Dark Knight.  Seeing his performance acknowledged with an Academy Award win was my proudest moment as an Oscar fan.  It showed that sometimes, just sometimes, they do award the best performance of the year, regardless of genre.  


Saturday, April 2, 2011

EGOT Alert: could Robin WIlliams join the club?

I'm not someone who likes to hype things up. This is true mostly because I've seen so much amped-up hype fizzle miserably.  This is very true for awards season, most specifically the Oscars and the Tonys (mind you, this isn't going to be a Tony or a theatre blog, I'm just making an observation).  But I must cave into my hype on this one for a few reasons, but mostly because of a potential new EGOT champ.

On March 31st, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo staring Robin Williams opened on Broadway at the Richard Rogers Theatre.  Williams received mostly positive reviews, though many single out the play for its excellence more than Williams himself, who plays the titular caged beast.  The most glowing review comes from Charles McNulty over at the LA Times, saying :

Williams submits himself wholly to the play's utterly natural surrealism. Concerns that the actor might turn this into a vehicle for his signature shtick are dispelled right way: Williams is in complete sync with the blasted tragicomic vision of the playwright, whose ample humor is far too sneaky for stand-up showboating...He's put himself at the drama's service.

An EGOT--invented my infamous non-EGOTer Philip Michael Thomas--represents the the Grand Slam of industry awards   an Emmy (TV), Grammy (music), Oscar (film), and Tony (stage).  Someone who EGOTs receives one of each, an impressive feat since few actors ever nab even one.  Williams is nearly there, having an Oscar (as the Best Supporting Actor of 1997 for Good Will Hunting), two Emmys, and four Grammys on his mantle.  This leaves only the Tony.

In the over 80 years the oldest award (the Oscar) has existed, only 10 artists have completed this daunting task.  They range from actors (Helen Hayes, Rita Moreno, John Gielgud, Audrey Hepburn, Whoopi Goldberg) to musicians (Richard Rogers, Marvin Hamlisch, Jonathan Tunick) to writers and directors (Mike Nichols, Mel Brooks).  Note that Bengal Tiger just opened at the Richard Rogers Theatre...a sign?

the face of an EGOTer?
Of course, though, Williams will have to survive the very unpredictable Tony season.  In the past, the Tonys used to turn a cold shoulder to celebrities-turned-Broadway-stars, but at last year's ceremony, Denzel Washington, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Scarlett Johanson all took home highly-competitive acting Tonys over more unknown stage stars.  So a potential Tony victory isn't out of the question, but when it comes to the Tonys, the voters typically hold staunchly to their guns and vote for what they actually consider the best, never giving into media hype or overdue status.

Currently, Williams stands alongside greats John Williams, Barbra Streisand, Randy Newman, Cher, Julie Andrews, and Michael Giacchino as Tony-less potential EGOTers.  

Also, it should be noted that I'm not trying to make news out of nothing.  I bring this up only because the potential for witnessing a complete EGOT is rare.  The last chance we had, by my calculation, was in 2009 when Liza Minnelli lost the Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.  Before that was in 2002, when John Kander and Fred Ebb lost the Best Original Song Oscar to Eminem.  The most recent member to the club is Whoopi Goldberg, who became a member in 10 years ago in 2001.  Chances to see it are few and far between.  I tend to keep my eyes peeled.  Here's wishing luck to Williams to complete and EGOT...and become the first EGOTer (and Tony winner?) to be awarded for playing an animal.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Love means never having to say "Happy Birthday"

Today marks the 72nd Birthday of Oscar-nominee Ali MacGraw.  She's most famous for her role as Jennifer Cavalleri in the 1970 monster hit Love Story, for which she received her Oscar nomination.  At the time of the film's release, she was one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, snagging an impressive three Golden Globes in a span of four years.  Strangely, though, her star quickly faded, and now an actress that was considered the next hot thing is all but forgotten about.

She was so big in the early 70s, she had her footprints and autograph enshrined in the cement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre after only four films.  Only four films!  Then she married action superstar Steve McQueen, her priorities shifted, and she passed up huge roles in The Great Gatsby and Chinatown.  A small stint on Dynasty in the 80s reminded people she still existed, but she didn't do much work after that.

Love Story was the highest grossing film of 1970, which was (and still is) an impressive feat for a film that's primarily story.  Typically action film are your year-end blockbusters, but in 1970, it was an emotional drama.  And the star of this drama was Ali MacGraw.  She was huge, and a classic Hollywood beauty.  She should be held in higher regard, but I fear that since the popularity of Love Story has faded, she has faded as well.  It doesn't help that Love Story has become a favorite target for Oscar bloggers and commentators, who often cite the film as one of the worst and most dated nominees for Best Picture.  It's not really fair though; the Oscars aren't supposed to recognize greatness in hindsight, but rather what they think is brilliant at the moment.  Her performance was guarded yet vulnerable; each time she muttered "preppy," you knew it was her way of saying "I love you."  Sure the movie was corny, but it also has a very real emotional core, which audiences in 1970 connected with.  It gave us the timeless film line "Love mean never having to say you're sorry" and it managed to make me cry like a baby.  Happy Birthday to a great actress who at least this blogger hasn't forgotten about.

BREAKING NEWS: James Franco wasn't high

Apparently this still matters.  If you don't know, just hours after hosting this year's Academy Awards, the internet was flooded with speculation regarding Franco.  Rumor had it, the 127 Hours star was high as a kite during the ceremony, thus explaining his apathetic line delivery and generally unenthusiastic nature.  I never really bought it then, and I still don't know.  Whether or not the host was high doesn't absolve the writers of randomly dressing him up as Marilyn Monroe or shoving low-brow Charlie Sheen humor into his mouth.  The writing was just bad.  At least Franco can commiserate with an unpopular past Oscar host, David Letterman.  It goes without saying that laying an egg on Oscar night didn't do too much damage to Letterman's career.

That being said, Franco wasn't the world's best host.  But as he put it on Letterman the other night, that doesn't really matter.  No matter who hosts the Oscars, they're going to be reamed the next morning and then forgiven eventually when everyone forgets just what the host did that was so awful to begin with.  Thankfully, Franco doesn't sound like he'll accept an unlikely return invite anyway.  People forget the "Oh we want him back" man of the moment, Hugh Jackman, got tepid reviews of his Oscar telecast.

But above all, even with all this slandering of Franco's character, we have to stop caring so much about the telecast itself.  It's designed and meant for people who don't care about the Oscars. Those who root for whatever nominee's name they recognize and whatever blockbuster film they saw.  The average viewer doesn't care about Art Direction, or who's favored to win Best Cinematography.  The telecast is a money-making machine, and still foolishly attempting to pander to a younger demographic (see: Anne Hathaway and Franco).  It's unfortunate they were roped into this, but at the end of the day, few people will even remember they hosted the ceremony.  Can you even name half of the hosts this last decade?

Great, he wasn't high.  Who'da thunk?  Moving on.