Now that Sunday night’s Oscars are over, the Internet is full of catty stories and tweets parsing every last second of televised coverage, from Angelina Jolie’s exposed leg to Adam Sandler’s participation in a taped segment in which actors discussed why they love movies. (If he really loved movies, he’d stop making them, some have said.)
It’s both understandable and sad that the Oscars — and movie-award season in general — ends like this, with far more interest in the telecast’s trivia than in the movies that win awards. Arguably, the news value of this year’s show peaked before it even officially started, when Sacha Baron Cohen, in costume as “The Dictator” for an upcoming movie, spilled an urn of faux human ashes (ostensibly Kim Jong-il’s) on interviewer Ryan Seacrest.
It’s getting worse, too, now that the Internet and 200+-channel cable television have educated us ad nauseam to the nature and inner workings of the Oscar campaign season. We carefully learn how a film builds momentum by moving through all the secondary award ceremonies from critics groups and the Hollywood professional guilds and associations.
As a result, the Academy Awards themselves have become anticlimactic, which partially explains the media devotion to dissecting the telecast. And the attempts by the Motion Picture Academy to build false enthusiasm by allowing up to ten Best Picture nominees have been a disaster, since we all now know how to “read” the nominations to distinguish the real ones (they also have Best Director nods) from the padding. Not all that long ago, few outside Hollywood insiders even knew there was a well-orchestrated “campaign season,” much less how to follow and handicap it.
Convention wisdom, and you hear a lot of it these days, would be to revive the Oscar telecast by de-emphasizing the importance of the awards, themselves. Reduce the number given out on TV, especially the more esoteric or niche ones, in favor of increasing the glitz, spectacle, star power and big production numbers. Do like the Grammys have done, where classical, jazz, folk, blues, opera, international and more are rarely ever presented on the show.
But I think the Academy should go the other way and try to increase public awareness of the importance of Oscar nominations. But maybe not for the Big Four categories – Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress, which probably do suffer from overexposure by the time the telecast comes around (although The Artist, this year’s big winner, could use the help since many people have been scared off by the fact it’s a black-and-white silent film).
Click the jump for more on ways the Academy could draw more attention to deserving films such as A Separation, In Darkness, Footnote and Bullhead.
The Room —a low-budget indie melodrama about a love triangle between a “successful banker,” his “beautiful blonde fiance” and his “independent best friend” written, directed and starring aspiring filmmaker Tommy Wiseau — has been called everything from the worst film ever made to the Citizen Kaneof bad movies. I've yet to experience it, but the film’s trailer brings to mind an overripe episode of Guiding Lightwith the production values and acting prowess of a late-night Cinemax C movie. (Curious side note: On the film's poster, Wiseau looks strikingly similar to Gene Simmons. Coincidence, or kismet?)
As a long time Thor fan, this movie has been on my calendar for months. Going into The Avengers I was excited but tried to keep my expectations from getting out of control. Fortunately, I didn’t need to do that because the movie is that good. A lot of that credit has to go to writer/director Joss Whedon. Some of you might recognize the name because he created the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.
The movie could have fallen apart from the beginning with so many big characters — both figurative and literally speaking — on screen at once. With Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk taking part in the story, any number of things could have gone wrong. Characters could have been underutilized — having four strong stand alone characters could have made them feel not like a team at all — but in the span of just a few hours, Whedon and company have created a giant leap for comic book fans and movies.
Whedon was the right person for the job because, based on his past work, he knows how to generate great characterization and interaction. He knows how to tell a story through the characters and not through the special effects, which was needed in a situation like this. Whedon, the other writers and the actors were able to make these comic book characters more human, so to speak.
The interactions between Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) were some of the best moments in the movie. Some of my favorites were Stark poking Banner to see if he will Hulk up, Thor giving a great one-liner about his brother Loki and Stark verbally sparing with Loki toward the end of the movie.
The story is simple enough: Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wants to take over and rule Earth and the Avengers have to stop him. The major battle doesn’t take place until the end of the movie, but then again it does take up the final 30 minutes or so.
With Loki as the main villain in the movie it helps to have seen last year’s Thor. It isn’t a must to but it does help set up the relationship between Thor and Loki. Watching all of the individual movies helps with understanding some of the character traits in The Avengers, though the last the two Hulk films don’t really do much for the character except see him smash through tanks and cities.
While Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk are the main heroes, there is a strong supporting cast around them. Scarlett Johansson is Agent Romanoff/Black Widow and Jeremy Renner is Agent Barton/Hawkeye, both agents for S.H.I.E.L.D. Clark Gregg returns as S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson, and How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders is Agent Hill. The guy who brings all of these characters together is Nick Furry, played by Samuel L. Jackson.
Tom Hiddleston is terrific as Loki. He is sinister, brutal and devious — after all, he is the Norse god of mischief, deceit and lies. I hope he returns in some fashion in the next Thor movie or the next Avengers. Robert Downey Jr. is back to his witty, sarcastic ways and he has some of the best lines in the movie. Mark Ruffalo is able to finally bring some credit to the Bruce Banner/Hulk character.
The Avengers is a great way to kick off the summer movie season. It combines wonderful action sequences, well done comedy and heartfelt drama in the span of 142 minutes. Whedon was a perfect fit for this movie because he understands character and doesn’t rely on flashy explosions like some directors. If you like flashy explosions there are a decent amount in The Avengers but there is also some of the best character development/interaction I’ve seen in a Marvel movie.
If you’re puzzled as to why or how we continue to let our national debt skyrocket out of control, the new documentary I.O.U.S.A is worth checking out as a 90-minute primer on a topic that gets woefully little attention given its impact on the future of our nation.
Our largely lackluster fall movie season trudges on with five more tepidly received efforts despite the presence of some big-named veteran directors like Clint Eastwood, Barry Levinson, Kevin Smith and the newly single Guy Ritchie.
Here's Ides' official synopsis, the contents of which are readily on display in the tension-laced trailer, which centers heavily on Ryan Gosling's campaign press secretary character:
The Greater Cincinnati Film Commission continues to bring film shoots to the Queen City — next up is Andy Goddard's The Blunderer, starring Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson. The film, based on the Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name, begins filming on Nov. 17 and will be shot entirely in Cincinnati.
Director Andy Goddard, who's worked on various TV shows and directed the upcoming Elijah Wood drama Set Fire to the Stars, will take on the 1954 psychological thriller by Highsmith. Another adaptation from the author, Carol, was filmed locally this past spring — it starred Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler and was directed by Todd Haynes. It will debut sometime in 2015.
Producers from Carol are returning for the second time this year, giving major kudos to the city.
"We had a great experience in Cincinnati on our film Carol," said Christine Vachon of Killer Films in a press release. “The Film Commission, the rebate, locations, infrastructure and welcoming people of Cincinnati brought us back a second time within one year."
It also sounds like this will be another production that takes advantage of Cincinnati's historic architecture and temporarily puts the city in a retro time warp — filmmakers are looking for period cars from 1960 or earlier. To get involved with that, email email@example.com.
Additionally, they're looking for extras (send a headshot and email to firstname.lastname@example.org) and qualified crew (send resume to email@example.com). The Blunderer is set to film here Nov. 17-Dec. 21.
Terrence Malick's Tree of Life is coming. Or is it?
Like everything the acclaimed 68-year-old filmmaker does, Malick's latest — just his fifth film in 38 years — has gone through a mysterious gestation, changing release dates and distributors numerous times (it was originally slated for a Dec. 25, 2009, release) while simultaneously revealing little about its contents.
It looks like the wait is finally over: I received a package from its current distributor, Fox Searchlight, a few days ago that contained the film's poster and a brief, one-sheet press release announcing that Tree of Life will open in select theaters on May 27.
The antithesis to the bloated, big-budget commercial fare that dominates the summer multiplex, the annual 48 Hour Film Project has done exactly what its creators envisioned when they founded it in 2001: empower filmmakers of every stripe and experience level to get off their asses and create something from nothing.