WE HAVE MOVED!

18 Jul

Dear Friends,

I am relocating my awards coverage to ScottFeinberg.com — an address that should be much easier to remember, and a much more polished site. I hope you’ll update your bookmarks and visit often!

Thanks, and see you at ScottFeinberg.com!

* * *

This message is sponsored by:
DishNetwork Satellite TV
All your favorite movie channels with all your favorite movies.

MY FIRST PROJECTIONS OF THE 2010 AWARDS SEASON!

23 Jun

[These initial projections were composed from the best information available to me at this early date, which is admittedly limited, but which I wanted to share with you nonetheless. Needless to say, there will be many amendments posted over the weeks and months to come, for which I hope you'll frequently check back!]

BEST PICTURE
Frontrunners
“The Fighter” (Paramount, 12/10)
“True Grit” (Paramount, 12/25)
“Love and Other Drugs” (20th Century Fox, 11/24)
“Another Year” (Sony Pictures Classics, 12/?)
Inception” (Warner Brothers, 7/16)
“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight, TBA)
“The Social Network” (Columbia, 10/1)
“Somewhere” (Focus Features, 12/22)
“The Tree of Life” (Apparition, TBD)
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company, 11/26)
Major Threats
“Toy Story 3” (Disney, 6/18)
“The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features, 7/9)
“Conviction” (Fox Searchlight, 10/15)
“Hereafter” (Warner Brothers, 10/22)
“Secretariat” (Disney, 10/8)
Possibilities
“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight, TBD)
“Blue Valentine” (The Weinstein Company, 12/31)
“Fair Game” (Summit, TBD)
“Eat Pray Love” (Columbia, 8/13)
“Never Let Me Go” (Fox Searchlight, 10/1)
“Winter’s Bone” (Roadside Attractions, 6/11)
“Morning Glory” (Paramount, 11/12)
Outside Shots
“How to Train Your Dragon” (Paramount, 3/26)
“Get Low” (Sony Pictures Classics, 7/30)
“The American” (Focus Features, 9/1)
“The Next Three Days” (Lionsgate, 11/19)
“Everything You’ve Got” (Columbia, 12/17)
“Mother and Child” (Sony Pictures Classics, 5/7)
“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (20th Century Fox, 9/24)
Not Happening
“Shutter Island” (Paramount, 2/19)
“Robin Hood” (Universal, 5/14)
“Green Zone” (Universal, 3/12)
“Greenberg” (Focus Features, 3/19)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
“Biutiful”
“The Conspirator”
“London Boulevard”
“The Way Back”

BEST DIRECTOR
Frontrunners
David O. Russell (“The Fighter”)
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (“True Grit”)
Edward Zwick (“Love and Other Drugs”)
Mike Leigh (“Another Year”)
Christopher Nolan (“Inception”)
Danny Boyle (“127 Hours”)
David Fincher (“The Social Network”)

Sofia Coppola (“Somewhere”)
Terence Malick (“The Tree of Life”)
Major Threats
Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”)
Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”)
Clint Eastwood (“Hereafter”)
Lisa Cholodenko (“The Kids Are All Right”)
Tony Goldwyn (“Conviction”)
Randall Wallace (“Secretariat”)
Possibilities
Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”)
Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”)
Doug Liman (“Fair Game”)
Ryan Murphy (“Eat Pray Love”)
Mark Romanek (“Never Let Me Go”)
Debra Granik (“Winter’s Bone”)
Roger Michell (“Morning Glory”)
Outside Shots
Dean Deblois, Chris Sanders (“How to Train Your Dragon”)
Aaron Schneider (“Get Low”)
Anton Corbijn (“The American”)
Paul Haggis (“The Next Three Days”)
James L. Brooks (“Everything You’ve Got”)
Rodrigo Garcia (“Mother and Child”)
Oliver Stone (“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”)
Not Happening
Martin Scorsese (“Shutter Island”)
Ridley Scott (“Robin Hood”)
Paul Greengrass (“Green Zone”)
Noah Baumbach (“Greenberg”)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Biutiful”)
Robert Redford (“The Conspirator”)
William Monahan (“London Boulevard”)
Peter Weir (“The Way Back”)

BEST ACTOR
Frontrunners
Mark Wahlberg (“The Fighter”)
Jake Gyllenhaal (“Love and Other Drugs”)
Ryan Gosling (“Blue Valentine”)
Jeff Bridges (“True Grit”)
Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”)
Leonardo DiCaprio (“Inception”)
Sean Penn (“The Tree of Life”)
James Franco (“127 Hours”)
Major Threats
Stephen Dorff (“Somewhere”)
Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”)
Jim Broadbent (“Another Year”)
Matt Damon (“Hereafter”)
Possibilities
Robert Duvall (“Get Low”)
Andy Serkis (“Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”)
Sean Penn (“Fair Game”)
Jack Nicholson (“Everything You’ve Got”)
Outside Shots
Harrison Ford (“Morning Glory”)
George Clooney (“The American”)
Kevin Spacey (“Casino Jack”)
Michael Douglas (“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”)
Russell Crowe (“The Next Three Days”)
Not Happening
Michael Douglas (“Solitary Man”)
Russell Crowe (“Robin Hood”)
Matt Damon (“Green Zone”)
Ben Stiller (“Greenberg”)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Javier Bardem (“Biutiful”)
Colin Farrell (“London Boulevard”)
Jim Sturgess (“The Way Back”)

BEST ACTRESS
Frontrunners
Anne Hathaway (“Love and Other Drugs”)
Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”)
Lesley Manville (“Another Year”)
Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”)
Hilary Swank (“Conviction”)
Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”)
Carey Mulligan (“Never Let Me Go”)
Diane Lane (“Secretariat”)
Major Threats
Naomi Watts (“Fair Game”)
Julia Roberts (“Eat Pray Love”)
Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech”)
Julianne Moore (“The Kids Are All Right”)
Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”)
Nicole Kidman (“Rabbit Hole”)
Possibilities
Jennifer Connelly (“What’s Wrong with Virginia?”)
Diane Keaton (“Morning Glory”)
Reese Witherspoon (“Everything You’ve Got”)
Bryce Dallas Howard (“Hereafter”)
Outside Shots
Tilda Swinton (“I Am Love”)
Annette Bening (“Mother and Child”)
Elizabeth Banks (“The Next Three Days”)
Not Happening
Greta Gerwig (“Greenberg”)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Robin Wright (“The Conspirator”)
Keira Knightley (“London Boulevard”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Frontrunners
Geoffrey Rush (“The King’s Speech”)
Christian Bale (“The Fighter”)
Sam Rockwell (“Conviction”)
Mark Ruffalo (“The Kids Are All Right”)
Major Threats
Josh Brolin (“True Grit”)
Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”)
John Malkovich (“Secretariat”)
Ed Harris (“What’s Wrong with Virginia?”)
Possibilities
Brad Pitt (“Tree of Life”)
Andrew Garfield (“Never Let Me Go”)
Outside Shots
Bill Murray (“Get Low”)
Miles Teller (“Rabbit Hole”)
Not Happening
Mark Ruffalo (“Shutter Island”)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Colin Farrell (“The Way Back”)
Ed Harris (“The Way Back”)
James McAvoy (“The Conspirator”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Frontrunners
Keira Knightley (“Never Let Me Go”)
Kristin Scott Thomas (“Nowhere Boy”)
Anne-Marie Duff (“Nowhere Boy”)
Elle Fanning (“Somewhere”)
Major Threats
Jessica Chastain (“Tree of Life”)
Dianne Wiest (“Rabbit Hole”)
Andrea Riseborough (“Brighton Rock”)
Barbara Hershey (“Black Swan”)
Winona Ryder (“Black Swan”)
Possibilities
Dale Dickey (“Winter’s Bone”)
Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”)
Amy Adams (“The Fighter”)
Juliette Lewis (“Conviction”)
Outside Shots
Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”)
Sissy Spacek (“Get Low”)
Thekla Reuten (“The American”)
Rebecca Hall (“The Town”)
Mia Wasikowska (“The Kids Are All Right”)
Not Happening
Cate Blanchett (“Robin Hood”)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Alexis Bledel (“The Conspirator”)
Evan Rachel Wood (“The Conspirator”)
Saoirse Ronan (“The Way Back”)

INTERVIEW: JOAN RIVERS, “A PIECE OF WORK,” UNLEASHED

13 May

<b>INTERVIEW: JOAN RIVERS, “A PIECE OF WORK,” UNLEASHED</b>

This morning, I had the pleasure of chatting with the legendary comedienne Joan Rivers about her life, work, eccentricities, and the new documentary that showcases all of the above, Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg‘s aptly titled “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” (trailer). The film, which debuted to widespread acclaim at January’s Sundance Film Festival, is very funny, as one might expect considering its subject, but also surprisingly moving. It touches upon the tragedy (a husband’s suicide), pain (a mentor’s rejection), and loneliness (a byproduct of aging) that have helped to fuel — and, even after 76 years, continue to fuel — Rivers’ trailblazing career in the public eye, and leaves one with a newfound respect for Rivers herself.

Following are excerpts of our conversation, which touched on the documentary; her work in comedy, on QVC, and along red carpets with her daughter Melissa Rivers; her roast on Comedy Central; NBC’s Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien debacle; Betty White‘s surprising resurgence; the next generation of female comics; her new TV Land show “How’d You Get So Rich?”; the possibility of an Oscar-hosting gig; and much more…

Why did Joan Molinsky became Joan Rivers?
Because in those days, which were the mid-sixties to the seventies, you liked to have a “theatrical name,” quote-unquote, and my agent’s name was Jerry Rivers. So that was it, just a good name.

Who were your comic role models and inspirations?
Probably Lenny Bruce. And there were lots of women around, but they were doing it and looking funny at the time, you know, like Phyllis Diller was at her height. She was wild-looking, silly-looking, and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to look pretty.

When did you first realize that you were funny?
Always. Always [been] funny.

What made you decide to allow cameras to record your private life — for the first time, I believe?
No, it’s not really. They did a couple of “Biography” specials on me and stuff, but they were such pandering — you know, “everybody loves you” talking heads. And I just thought that the work that these two girls do is extraordinary, and I thought they could really get an honest picture of what it’s like for a year in the life of a performer. And I think they did. [Note: Co-director Stern's mother is a close friend of Rivers's.]

What was your initial, immediate reaction upon seeing the completed film?
None — and that’s a good question — none. I’m too close to it. I was in awe at what they were able to put in, and — not disappointed, that’s the wrong word — surprised at some of the things that they left out.

As long as you mention that, may I ask what some of the things were that you were surprised they left out?
Well, my personal life, my social life. They mainly concentrated on my professional life, which is great, but it looks like I have no friends in the world, it looks like I don’t have a family, you know? But they only had 89 minutes or something to do it, and obviously it’s getting amazing reviews — they picked which they thought were the most interesting things, and they were obviously right.

After watching the film, I couldn’t help but wonder what really drives you to continue to work so hard and to continue to subject yourself to audiences. In the film you joke that it’s largely due to bad investments and the need to fund your lavish lifestyle; there’s also a montage in there that seems to suggest that it’s anger or even hate about certain things; and your daughter, meanwhile, expresses her belief that it’s really just the same thing that’s driven comedians forever, namely the need for approval. But I wonder what really is the driving force that makes you continue to do this…
I think it’s all of the above, plus I just love the work. I love what I do. I’m one of those lucky people that has been able to survive all their life doing what they love, what they wanted to do from being a child on. I never wanted anything but this business, and how lucky I was that I was able to make a life in it.

Is there a step in the process that you love most of all? Is it the writing, or the delivery, or the audience response, or something else?
It’s everything. It’s everything. To think of an idea, and laugh about it, and then do it on stage that night, and then they laugh? That’s great. It makes you feel so good.

As someone who was also unfairly screwed around by NBC late-night, what’s your take on the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien debacle? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who won? Who lost?
I think they both won. Conan got $45 million — not a bad check to walk away — and then Conan, after all his boo-hooing that “I was pushed out by Leno, boo-hoo, boo-hoo,” went and pushed out Lopez. No one has put that piece of the puzzle together yet, which I find the most interesting of the whole thing — he did exactly to George Lopez what Leno did to him! And Leno absolutely belongs at 11:30 — he’s boring, he’s easy, he doesn’t make waves. He’s perfect for late-night ’cause you can go to sleep and you’ve missed nothing.

The documentary doesn’t devote much if any time to your work on red carpets, which is the primary way that many people who grew up during the 1990s and 2000s know you–
Right.

Are you surprised that it wasn’t touched upon more?
Again, that was their choice. I just allowed them into my life, and they were around me for 14 months, 15 months, and they had to pick what they thought was the most interesting.

As far as that chapter in your life — the fashion stuff — how did it come about?
Well, everyone forgets that I designed my own line on QVC for 20 years. So I’m very much into that kind of fashion. All through college, I worked in window display — which is a combination of fashion and showbiz — for Lord & Taylor. Those were my summer jobs and my jobs right out of college. So I was always kind of involved with fashion. And I just like fashion. It was just a natural thing. And every woman comments, every woman sits in front of her screen and says, “I like her dress, I don’t like her dress.” Every woman’s a fashion expert.

Before you, had anyone ever asked the question, “Who are you wearing?”
I figured that question out — not a heavy question to figure out! [laughs]

No, but it’s really become a popular catchphrase…
I know, and the New York Times, when I was saying it in the beginning, was saying, “How superficial and how stupid to say this!”

Well, I think you won that one…
Yeah, I won that battle.

Many of the critiques that you’ve made have been very entertaining, but some of the recipients of them have asked, “Who are you to make them?” What would you say to them?
“And who are you to wear such an ugly dress?!” [laughs]

There’s a generation of female comics now — Ellen DeGeneres, Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, etc. — who very possibly might not have been interested in doing what they’re doing or been able to do it were it not for you. Therefore, I’m curious: who, in your opinion, is the comic heiress to Joan Rivers?
There is no heiress! I am alive, and I am well, and I am working at the top of my form, and I couldn’t give a shit. There is no mantle to be passed; I am wearing the mantle, and it is a gorgeous mantle.

If you had not led such a public life, what do you think you might have done with your life?
I would have been a funny dentist’s wife in Larchmont. I don’t know because I think, somehow or other, I would’ve gotten into this business. It might have been community theater, who knows? I just always was hellbent on getting into the business.

What’s been the hardest part of it? If you could lose one part of it, would it be the fierce competition or criticism? I mean, the documentary features your thoughts on the Comedy Central roast, which really seemed like something that you were not gung-ho to do at all. And, when you did do it, they were not nice — they got into plastic surgery, and age, and stuff like that. At this stage of your life, what do you need that kind of crap for?
The money was amazing. The money was amazing, which is exactly why I did it. I ended up having a great time with it, and I loved the people I worked with. But I never do roasts; I don’t let them do one of me and I don’t like to do them. I just think they’re stupid because, again, you’re always gonna say the same thing — there are, like, six areas that you can talk about with anybody, and it’s so boring, and who cares? And they always end up saying, “But, seriously, I love you!” Oh, go away! I’m not a roast person.

You must have thick skin, though. You don’t let that stuff bother you?
I knew what was coming. In the documentary, I said to my assistant, “They’re gonna do plastic surgery, and age, and QVC jokes.” And then you saw the show and they did plastic surgery, and age, and QVC jokes. As I said, I’m not a fan of roasts.

If you could go back and change one thing about your life — the work side or the personal side or anything — what would you have liked to turn out differently?
Oh, I would have loved to have been a great opera singer.

Really?
Oh, God! I would have loved to be able to get on the stage at the Met and just belt it out. Oh — oh, my God!

Did you ever pursue that at all? Not necessarily at the Met, but at a lower level?
You haven’t heard me sing. [laughs]

In the film you talk about “the book” — your calendar book. How’s that filling up these days? What are your plans for the future? What are you up to next? Is there anything that you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet?
My book is busier than ever, thank God, which is amazing. I want to do everything I said in the movie. I want to go back to Broadway; I’ve never been in a situation comedy — of course, I’ve never even asked to read for one. Melissa and I have a new TV show coming out in December, a reality-show. I have my own show, “How’d You Get So Rich?,” on the air in its second season. My jewelry. It’s all — life is okay! No complaints at this moment.

What do you make of all the hubbub over Betty White hosting “Saturday Night Live”?
I think it was wonderful. I think she’s a great comic actress, and I think she was so underrated until now. When you look back, she was on “Mary Tyler Moore” — hilarious. She was on “Golden Girls” — hilarious. She’s a wonderful comic actress. How great for her, at 88, to be so feted. I mean, that’s just wonderful.

Now there’s a grassroots campaign for Betty White to host the Emmys or the Oscars. Next to her, you’re a kid! Would you ever be interested in doing that? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate turn-around, to bring you inside from the red carpet?!
Oh, in a hot second! But they’ll never do it. I’m an outsider. They will never do it. Again, you’ve gotta learn in this business to survive. You put on your blinders and you do your own race. They will never do it. I have never been an insider, which is one of the big things for the movie shows. And I would probably be the 19th down on the list.

But, playing the devil’s advocate, aren’t Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, and Jon Stewart outsiders? Yes, they’re in show business, but they’re not really movie people…
But they’re just perceived differently. And who cares? Again we’re back to that — I don’t look, I don’t care.

Photo: Joan Rivers performs stand-up in Edinburgh, Scotland in May 2009. Credit: Underbelly Limited.

TRIBECA: CATTRALL SERVES UP SEX IN THE HEARTLAND

29 Apr

<b>TRIBECA: CATTRALL SERVES UP SEX IN THE HEARTLAND</b>

Keith Bearden‘s “Meet Monica Velour” premiered on Sunday at New York’s School of Visual Arts as part of the ninth annual Tribeca Film Festival. After just a few minutes of establishing material, the film began to look a lot like other low-budget indies that recently clicked: its protagonist is a veritable — and virginial — nerd (very similar to the title character in “Napoleon Dynamite”); it constantly employs sight gags like a decades-old Weenie-mobile (not a far stretch from the VW-bus in “Little Miss Sunshine”); its script calls for hip/irony-laden dialogue and terms like “Homeslice” (which is embarassingly similar to “Homeskillet” in “Juno”); and the list goes on. The reality is that this film cannot compete with those films on their strengths, but it does have a few of its own — and none is greater than the actress who plays its eponymous character, Kim Cattrall.

It takes a while before Monica Velour pops up, since the film is ostensibly the story of Tobe, the 17-year-old outcast (20-year-old newcomer Dustin Ingram) from the state of Washington who is obssessed with her. Tobe, whose mother died when he was just three and who was raised by his alcoholic grandfather (Brian Dennehy in a colorful performance), has spent his youth escaping from the present into the past. His bedroom (and head) are cluttered with nostalgic memorabilia — old music, old movies, and, yes, old porn. Shortly after he graduates from high school, he reads that his favorite porn star of all, a 1970′s blonde bombshell named Monica Velour, will be making a rare appearance at a strip club in Indiana. That happens to be the same state in which a fellow nostalgist (Keith David) is willing to pay him good money for the Weenie-mobile (his grandfather’s graduation gift to him), so he decides he cannot pass up the opportunity, even though it means driving halfway across the country.

The strip club turns out to be a dump, the clientele pigs, and Monica Velour… well, a little past her sell-by date. Her get-up and routine look like something out of Vaudeville, and when some of the audience starts to shout mean-spirited catcalls at her (basically calling her a grandma), Tobe, emboldened by the alcohol that the club has been forcing down his throat, musters the strength to speak up in her defense — and gets himself pummeled in the process. Later that night, after being fired from the club, Monica comes across the ambulance in which Tobe is being treated, and agrees to take him back to her trailer-park home until he has sobered up. Once there, the truth about his situation (he’s a virgin who worships her) and hers (she’s a drunk who mourns for the life she could have led and yearns for the daughter that her ex keeps her from seeing) begins to come out, and — wouldn’t you know it — they form a “Harold and Maude” (1971) type bond… that eventually crosses a line that Harold and Maude, thankfully, never did, but in this case seems only fitting.

Ingram does a good enough job (although he sometimes plays up the weirdo-factor to such an extent — staring open-mouthed for long stretches or chucking and kicking his bicycle in front of strangers — that one wonders if there’s actually something wrong with him), but the truth is that this movie would be nothing if not for Cattrall, who shines. Even though the actress, at 53, doesn’t look a day older than 40, it still took real guts for her, as someone who is best known as the glamorous, confident, even cocky Samantha from “Sex in the City” (and its forthcoming sequel), to scrape off all of her makeup, lay bare her wrinkles and saggy bits, and portray a defeated has-been. Moreover, the film could easily have sunken into campy melodrama, but thanks to Cattrall — and the vivacity, humor, and compassion always evident in her cat-like eyes — it never does. As foolishly and meanly as Monica sometimes behaves, one can’t help but like and root for her.

NOTE: I got a particular kick out of the film because I, too, once spent some time getting to know a porn star with whose work I may or may not previously been acquainted.

TRIBECA: “MURDERBALL” DIRECTOR’S FEATURE DEBUT

26 Apr

PIC

On Saturday evening, “Monogamy” (video preview) — the feature debut of Dana Adam Shapiro, who received an Oscar nomination for co-directing the great documentary “Murderball” (2005) — premiered at the Borough of Manhattan Community College as part of the ninth annual Tribeca Film Festival. Ironically, it followed a screening at the same location of a new documentary about New York’s disgraced ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer, but I digress…

The film stars Chris Messina, the oblivious bridegroom-to-be in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008) and neglected husband in “Julie & Julia” (2009), and Rashida Jones, the wife in “I Love You, Man” (2009) and regular on TV’s “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” as a hip, modern, engaged couple who learn some unsettling things about each other as their wedding day nears.

Messina’s Theo and Jones’s Nat live together in Brooklyn. He’s a frustrated artist, barely makes ends meet as a photographer who gets most of his work taking wedding photos for other couples, but eventually creating a side-business called “Gumshoot” in which he is hired by clients to covertly photograph them throughout the day. One, a beautiful young blonde who turns out to be an “exhibitionist,” tempts his wandering eye, which is perhaps more inclined to wander than usual because Nat, of late, is less inclined to meet his animalistic hunger for sex. (Think Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” only wearing a dog mask left over from Halloween.) For Theo, what begins as an erotic curiosity evolves into a peeping-tom obsession that causes him to neglect his fiancee, even when she is hospitalized with a staph infection. Little things (forgetting to bring her guitar to the hospital) take on bigger meaning (perhaps even overdramatically), and the couple soon find themselves in peril.

In Messina’s highest-profile roles heretofore, he has, quite frankly, specialized in playing nebbishes (who, several friends have independently mentioned to me, chew food like a cow), so I was rather surprised to see him playing a psychologically-complex, sexually-assertive, rough-around-the-edges man (who, I must admit, chews food like a cow) — and quite impressively. In fact, he somewhat reminded me of a young Gene Hackman, who, you may recall, conducted some surveillance of his own in “The French Connection” (1971) and “The Conversation” (1974).

As for Jones (who, incidentally, is the daughter of the musician/record producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton), she definitely possesses the beauty and magnetic quality that stars are made of. In this particular film, though, most of the meatiest material belongs to her co-star, and she is primarily called upon to sing a little, cast suspicious glances, and affect disappointed pouts — each of which she does, I might add, nearly as alluringly as my personal favorite singing, mood-swinging cutiepie, Zooey Deschanel.

A few other quick notes: Cinematographer Doug Emmett deserves special mention for creating a cool documentary-look to the film, not unlike that of Steven Soderbergh‘s “The Girlfriend Experience” (2009)… The film runs a little longer than it needs to, and if I were Shapiro I might consider eliminating unnecessary elements like a horny hospital doctor and a single friend’s cute young daughter, neither of which add much if anything to the story… Some big names came out to support the film at its screening and/or after-party at Beba at 71 Spring Street in Soho — among them, ex-couple Billy Crudup and Claire Danes, “Star Trek” (2009) cast-mates Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, Selma Blair, Mamie Gummer, Tom McCarthy, and Scott Speedman.

Here’s video of the post-premiere Q&A with the stars/director/producers/crew:

2009 UNSUNG HERO: FRED MELAMED (AKA SY ABLEMAN)

29 Mar

mean-fred

Fred Melamed gives Michael Stuhlbarg an unsolicited hug in “A Serious Man” (Focus Features)

On a rainy evening in early January 2010, in a corner of the bustling lobby of the Hyatt Hotel adjacent to Grand Central Station in Midtown Manhattan, I chatted for nearly two hours with the actor who created the most memorable character to grace the big screen in 2009. No, I wasn’t in the company of Sandra Bullock, Jeff Bridges, Mo’Nique, or Christoph Waltz, but rather Fred Melamed, a 53-year-old who has worked for decades on radio (as a top voiceover artist), stage (including a stint on Broadway), and screen (appearing in no fewer than nine Woody Allen films, among others), and who most recently brought to life the unforgettably unctuous Sy Ableman in the Coen brothers’ best picture Oscar nominee “A Serious Man.”

Fred’s performance, which provides many of the film’s funniest moments, is beginning to develop a cult-like following. It earned a shoutout from Roger Ebert; a plea to Oscar voters from A.O. Scott; and a piece of both a best ensemble nomination from the Gotham Independent Film Awards and the Robert Altman Award from the Indie Spirit Awards. I’ve watched it half a dozen times now — largely because I was so excited to see different relatives’ and friends’ reactions — and the content and delivery crack me up every time. (Indeed, I’m such a fan that I seriously considered dressing up as Sy Ableman for Halloween before remembering that I’m a grown man.)

I asked to speak with Fred for those reasons, and because I realized that his performance was unlikely to garner individual awards attention for a number of reasons—it’s but one part of an ensemble piece; it’s in a comedy; Fred’s not a household name; he made it look so easy; etc. As I wrote in January, I’ve decided to devote at least two posts each year to celebrating individuals—one from “behind-the-scenes” and one from “on-screen”—who I strongly feel deserved more attention than they received over the course of the awards season. For 2009, my behind-the-scenes choice was Eric Steelberg, the cinematographer of both “500 Days of Summer” and “Up in the Air”; as for on-screen talent, no one deserves to be highlighted more than Fred.

Below, you can read a the full transcript of our conversation, which covers everything from Fred’s early years, to his struggles with weight and substance abuse, to his collaborations with Woody Allen and the Coen brothers, to a theological discussion about the meaning of the opening and closing scenes of A Serious Man, to criticisms about the way that film portrays Jews and Judaism. I think you’ll find it—and Fred—to be fascinating. I know I did.

(more…)

NOT A COINCIDENCE

8 Mar

monique

hattie monique

On February 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel was awarded the best supporting actress Oscar for her performance in “Gone with the Wind” (1939), becoming the first black actor or actress to ever win an Academy Award. On March 7, 2010 (70 years and one week later), Mo’Nique was awarded the very same honor for her performance in “Precious” (2009). During Mo’Nique’s acceptance speech she said, “I would like to thank Miss Hattie McDaniel for enduring what she had to so that I would not have to.”

In a recent article in Parade magazine, “Precious” director Lee Daniels said that Mo’Nique is “obsessed” with playing McDaniel in a film about her life. Then, this week, Mo’Nique announced that she has formally optioned McDaniel’s life story, paving the way for a project in the near future.

Last night, Mo’Nique paid special tribute to McDaniel at the Oscars: she wore a royal blue gown and a flower in her hair because, she later told members of the press, McDaniel had done the same on the night she collected her Oscar. (You can see side-by-side photos of the women accepting their Oscars at the top of this post, and watch video of McDaniels’ acceptance speech by clicking here.)

PRICELESS POST-SHOW PIC

8 Mar

cambig

cambig

LIVE BLOG: 82ND OSCARS!

7 Mar

oscarset

oscarset

THE LATEST…

11:58pm/est: BEST PICTURE

  • Nominees: “Avatar” (20th Century Fox, 12/18), “The Blind Side” (Lions Gate, 11/20), “District 9” (TriStar, 8/14), “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics, 10/9), “The Hurt Locker” (Summit, 6/26), “Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company, 8/21), “Precious” (Lions Gate, 11/6), “A Serious Man” (Focus Features, 10/2), “Up” (Disney, 5/29), “Up in the Air” (Paramount, 12/4)
  • Projection: “The Hurt Locker”
  • Presenter(s): Tom Hanks

Winner: “THE HURT LOCKER”
Commentary
: Make no mistake about it: David has slain Goliath! “The Hurt Locker,” which first premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival but only became a critical darling in mid-2009, establishes a new record for the lowest-grossing best picture winner ($14,700,000 domestically); over the past 31 years — the time period for which widespread data is available — no best picture winner earned less than $43,984,230 domestically, the box-office take of “The Last Emperor” (1987). For the 15th time in 20 years, a film with the lead or co-lead in total nominations has won best picture (both “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar” had nine). And Bigelow, who had already become the first female to win the best director Oscar, also becomes the first female to have directed a best picture Oscar winner. (For much more information on “The Hurt Locker,” check out a primer on the film that I recently posted and the audio of a post-SAG screening Q&A that I conducted with its stars Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie back in November.) Meanwhile, “Avatar,” which has earned more money at the box-office than any other film in history ($720,180,000-and-counting domestically, $2,559,189,000-and-counting internationally), proved unable to overcome snubs in the acting and screenplay categories (only one film has ever managed to win under the same circumstances, and that was 77 years ago). And fellow best picture nominees “An Education” (3 total nods), “District 9” (4 total nods), “A Serious Man” (2 total nods), and “Up in the Air” (8 total nods) become only the 135th, 136th, 137th, and 138th best picture nominees in 82 years of Oscars to go home empty-handed.

11:53pm/est: BEST DIRECTOR

  • Nominees: Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), James Cameron (“Avatar”), Lee Daniels (“Precious”), Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”), Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”)
  • Projection: Bigelow
  • Presenter(s): Barbra Streisand

Winner: KATHRYN BIGELOW (“THE HURT LOCKER”)
Commentary
: Bigelow makes history by becoming the first female in the 82 years of the Academy Awards to win the best director Oscar — taking the prize over her ex-husband Cameron, to boot! Streisand can be overheard saying, “I am so honored to present you this” as she hands her the statuette. I encourage you to check out our recently-posted retrospective of Bigelow’s work and rundown of female directors who paved the way for her and for whom she has paved the way (several of whom cheered her nomination and potential win when I reached out to them for comment last month).

11:39pm/est: BEST ACTRESS

  • Nominees: Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”), Helen Mirren (“The Last Station”), Carey Mulligan (“An Education”), Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”), Meryl Streep (“Julie & Julia”)
  • Projection: Bullock
  • Presenter(s): Michael Sheen (Mirren), Forest Whitaker (Bullock), Oprah Winfrey (Sidibe), Stanley Tucci (Streep), Peter Sarsgaard (Mulligan), Sean Penn (the envelope)

Winner: SANDRA BULLOCK (“THE BLIND SIDE”)
Commentary
: As I wrote last month, Bullock — who is greeted by a standing ovation — seemed to have an edge in this race because 51 of the previous 82 best actress winners won for a performance in a film that was nominated for best picture (which Bullock’s is); only 11 of the previous 82 best actress winners represented the sole nomination for their film (which Streep is); and since the first SAG Awards in 1994 only 4 women have won the Golden Globe for best actress (either drama or comedy/musical) but not the SAG Award for best actress and still gone on to win the best actress Oscar (which boded well for Bullock but not for Streep) and no woman has ever lost both the Golden Globe for best actress (either drama or comedy/musical) and the SAG Award for best actress and still gone on to win the best actress Oscar (which did not bode well for Mirren, Mulligan, or Sidibe) And that’s before you consider that Streep has already won two Oscars and garnered 16 Oscar nominations; Mirren won an Oscar only 3 years ago; and Mulligan and Sidibe are nominated for their first starring roles; whereas this is the first nomination of Bullock’s long career as a leading lady, and while most people don’t usually win on their first nomination exceptions are periodically made for “America’s Sweethearts”. Some fun facts: (1) only two other Oscar-winning performances have come in movies that grossed more money domestically than Bullock’s ($250,480,000 and counting): Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight,” 2008) for best supporting actor and Tom Hanks (“Forrest Gump,” 1994) for best actor; (2) Streep’s record number of acting losses grows from 13 to 14; her closest living competition is way behind her: Jack Nicholson (9), Peter O’Toole (8), and Al Pacino (7); and (3) Bullock becomes the first person to ever win a Razzie for worst performance and an Oscar for best performance in the same year.

11:24pm/est: BEST ACTOR

  • Nominees: Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”), George Clooney (“Up in the Air”), Colin Firth (“A Single Man”), Morgan Freeman (“Invictus”), Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”)
  • Projection: Bridges
  • Presenter(s): Tim Robbins (Freeman), Colin Farrell (Renner), Vera Farmiga (Clooney), Julianne Moore (Firth), Michelle Pfeiffer (Bridges), and Kate Winslet (the envelope)

Winner: JEFF BRIDGES (“CRAZY HEART”)
Commentary
: Bridges, the beloved child of Hollywood and veteran actor, is greeted with a loud standing ovation and gives a lovely speech thanking his parents and the many others who have helped him over the course of his five-plus decades in the business. He became the clear favorite for this prize as soon as Fox Searchlight unveiled “Crazy Heart” in November — they hadn’t even planned to release it in 2009 but bumped it up when resources became available thanks to “Amelia” flopping. Now, on his fifth nomination, he finally takes home the prize, having waited longer between his first nod and first win than all but three others in Oscar history: Henry Fonda waited 41 years between his best actor nod for “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940) and best actor win for “On Golden Pond” (1981); Alan Arkin waited 40 years between his best actor nomination for “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” (1966) and his best supporting actor win for “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006); and Jack Palance waited 39 years between his best supporting actor nod for “Sudden Death” (1952) and his best supporting actor win for “City Slickers” (1991).

  • Kathy Bates introduces the best picture nominee “Avatar.” The camera then cuts away to a shot of the director and voiceover-stars of the film.

11:14pm/est: BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Nominees: “Ajami” (Israel),“The Milk of Sorrow” (Peru), “A Prophet” (France), “The Secret in Their Eyes” (Argentina), “The White Ribbon” (Germany)
  • Projection: “The Secret in Their Eyes”
  • Presenter(s): Pedro Almodovar and Quentin Tarantino

Winner: “THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES” (ARGENTINA)
Commentary
: A big thank you to my sources on the Academy’s foreign language committee, who told me that this moving film appeared to be much better received by Academy audiences than several of the more critically-embraced but stiffer alternatives. This becomes the second Argentinian film to take this prize, joining “The Official Story” (1985).

  • Keanu Reeves introduces the best picture nominee “The Hurt Locker,” which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who also directed him in “Point Break” (1991). The camera then cuts away to a shot of the director and voiceover-stars of the film.

11:06pm/est: BEST FILM EDITING

  • Nominees: “Avatar” (Stephen Rivkin/John Refoua/James Cameron), “District 9 (Julian Clarke), “The Hurt Locker” (Bob Murawski/Chris Innis), “Inglourious Basterds (Sally Menke), “Precious” (Joe Klotz)
  • Projection: “The Hurt Locker”
  • Presenter(s): Tyler Perry

Winner: “THE HURT LOCKER”
Commentary
: The ACE Eddie winner has now corresponded with the best film editing Oscar for 10 consecutive years. This category is also a crucial stepping stone on the way to a best picture win, as the same film frequently — but not always — wins both.

11:01pm/est: BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM

  • Nominees: “Burma VJ” (Oscilloscope), “The Cove” (Roadside Attractions), “Food Inc.” (Magnolia), “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” (Kovno), “Which Way Home” (HBO)
  • Projection: “The Cove”
  • Presenter(s): Matt Damon

Winner: “THE COVE”
Commentary
: This social-activist doc about dolphin slaughter in Japan caught the attention of blogger Jeffrey Wells and then many high-profile celebrities (including Ben Stiller), who championed it all along the way.

  • Jason Bateman introduces the best picture nominee “Up in the Air,” in which he played a key supporting part. The camera then cuts away to a shot of the director and voiceover-stars of the film.

10:54pm/est: BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Nominees: “Avatar” (Joe Letteri/Stephen Rosenbaum/Richard Baneham/Andrew R. Jones), “District 9 (Dan Kaufman/Peter Muyzers/Robert Habros/Matt Aitken), “Star Trek” (Robert Guyett/Russell Earl/Paul Kavanagh/Burt Dalton)
  • Projection: “Avatar”
  • Presenter(s): Gerard Butler and Bradley Cooper

Winner: “AVATAR”
Commentary
: The Camerons and the “Avatar” cast stand up and cheer the winners. Only a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting with Letteri about the pioneering technological work that he and his team did on this film over the course of several years — all that I can say is it’s probably the most deserved honor of the night.

10:46pm/est: BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Nominees: “Avatar (James Horner), “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (Alexandre Desplat), “The Hurt Locker” (Marco Beltrami/Buck Sanders), “Sherlock Holmes” (Hans Zimmer), “Up” (Michael Giacchino)
  • Projection: “Up”
  • Presenter(s): Jennifer Lopez and Sam Worthington

Winner: “UP”
Commentary
: Lopez and Worthington introduce well-choreographed dancers — the choreographer/”Dancing with the Stars” judge/Oscar show co-producer Adam Shankman‘s touch — performing to snippets of each of the nominated scores. (Very well done, but not necessarily related to film in any way, is it?) Giacchino wins — a really nice guy who, in addition to “Up,” has worked on many other Pixar films (most recently “Ratatouille”) and also works with J.J. Abrams (this year on both “Star Trek” and television’s “Lost”).

  • Demi Moore introduces James Taylor, who plays guitar over a montage of select Hollywood figures who passed away over the past year. These include Patrick Swayze, Jean Simmons, Tullio Pionelli, Eric Rohmer, David Carradine, Dom DeLuise, Army Archerd, Ron Silver, Brittany Murphy, Lou Jacobi, Betsy Blair, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Cardiff, Kathryn Grayson, Roy E. Disney, Larry Gelbart, Horton Foote, Budd Schulberg (audible applause for this controversial figure), Michael Jackson, Natasha Richardson, Jennifer Jones, David Brown, and last but certainly not least Karl Malden (loud applause).

10:34pm/est: BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Nominees: “Avatar” (Mauro Fiore), “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Bruno Delbonnel), “The Hurt Locker” (Barry Ackroyd), “Inglourious Basterds (Robert Richardson), “The White Ribbon” (Christian Berger)
  • Projection: “The Hurt Locker”
  • Presenter(s): Sandra Bullock

Winner: “AVATAR”
Commentary
: An obviously clenched and nervous Bullock introduces the nominees and announces the winner. “Avatar” was not a clear favorite in this category if only because many people don’t know whether to credit the film’s look to its cinematographer or visual effects artists or someone else. (The cinematography of “The White Ribbon” had been named the best of the year by the cinematographers’ guild, but the foreign-language film was not seen by nearly as many members of the full Academy, which votes to determine the winner of this award.)

  • John Travolta introduces the best picture nominee “Inglourious Basterds,” which was written and directed by his “Pulp Fiction” director Quentin Tarantino. The camera then cuts away to a shot of the director and voiceover-stars of the film.
  • Elizabeth Banks calls attention to the Sci-Tech Academy Awards that she helped to present several days ago.

10:26pm/est: BEST SOUND MIXING

  • Nominees: “Avatar” (Christopher Boyes/Gary Summers/Andy Nelson/Tony Johnson), “The Hurt Locker (Paul N.J. Ottosson/Ray Beckett), “Inglourious Basterds” (Michael Minkler/Tony Lamberti/Mark Ulano), “Star Trek (Anna Behlmer/Andy Nelson/Peter J. Devlin), “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (Greg P. Russell/Gary Summers/Geoffrey Patterson)
  • Projection: “Avatar”
  • Presenter(s): Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick

Winner: “THE HURT LOCKER”
Commentary
: “The Hurt Locker” becomes only the third film in the past decade to sweep both sound categories, joining “King Kong” (2005) and “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2008). It now seems very, very likely that “The Hurt Locker” will defeat “Avatar” for the best picture Oscar.

10:24pm/est: BEST SOUND EDITING

  • Nominees: “Avatar” (Christopher Boyes/Gwendolyn Yates Whittle), “The Hurt Locker (Paul N.J. Ottosson), “Inglourious Basterds” (Wylie Stateman), “Star Trek (Mark Stoeckinger/Alan Rankin), “Up” (Michael Silvers, Tom Myers)
  • Projection: “Avatar”
  • Presenter(s): Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick

Winner: “THE HURT LOCKER”
Commentary
: The two presenters present a montage about sound editing/mixing narrated by — who else? — Morgan Freeman. Then “The Hurt Locker,” which won the CAS and BAFTA awards for best sound, beats the epic “Avatar.”

  • Martin and Baldwin preview a clip about horror movies with their own spoof of this year’s breakout genre-hit “Paranormal Activity.” Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart, two of the three hot young stars of the “Twilight” franchise (which I wouldn’t really categorize as horror) take the stage and introduce the actual montage. (I noticed Stewart’s hands were tightly clasped behind her back, probably to curb her usual tick of playing with her hair while speaking, no.)
  • Charlize Theron introduces the best picture nominee “Precious.” The camera then cuts away to a shot of the director and voiceover-stars of the film.

10:09pm/est: BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Nominees: “Bright Star” (Janet Patterson), “Coco Before Chanel (Catherine Leterrier), “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” (Monique Prudhomme), “Nine (Colleen Atwood), “The Young Victoria” (Sandy Powell)
  • Projection: “The Young Victoria”
  • Presenter(s): Tom Ford and Sarah Jessica Parker

Winner: “THE YOUNG VICTORIA”
Commentary
: Ford and Parker are paired together as presented, presumably because he makes nice clothes and she wears them? Anyway, the great Powell takes the prize. Kudos to her publicists, who ran an aggressive but tasteful campaign. Upon accepting her prize she remarks, “Well, I already have two of these, so I’m feeling greedy.” I’m sure that is of great consolation to her fellow nominees.

10:06pm/est: BEST ART DIRECTION

  • Nominees: “Avatar” (Rick Carter/Robert Stromberg/Kim Sinclair), “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (Dave Warren/Anastasia Masaro/Caroline Smith), “Nine” (John Myhre/Gordon Sim), “Sherlock Holmes (Sarah Greenwood/Katie Spencer), “The Young Victoria” (Patrice Vermette/Maggie Gray)
  • Projection: “Avatar”
  • Presenter(s): Sigourney Weaver

Winner: “AVATAR”
Commentary
: Weaver, the star of “Avatar,” presents the award to her film’s art directors. Goliath finally picks up its first win of the night; in all likelihood, not its last. Acceptance speech, part 1: “Jim Cameron, this Oscar sees you!” Acceptance speech, part 2: “13 years ago, my doctors told me I wasn’t gonna survive.” Quite the juxtaposition!

  • Colin Firth introduces the best picture nominee “An Education.” The camera then cuts away to a shot of the director and voiceover-stars of the film.

9:55pm/est: BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Nominees: Mo’Nique (“Precious”), Penelope Cruz (“Nine”), Vera Farmiga (“Up in the Air”), Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Crazy Heart”), Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”)
  • Projection: Mo’Nique
  • Presenter(s): Robin Williams

Winner: MO’NIQUE (“PRECIOUS”)
Commentary
: Despite playing a horrifying character, refusing to campaign for the Oscar, and making some questionable comments/decisions over the past few months, Mo’Nique snags the top prize and receives a hearty and largely standing ovation from the audience. She becomes only the fourth African-American actress (out of 16 nominated) to ever win an Oscar in this category, following in the footsteps of Hattie McDaniel (“Gone with the Wind,” 1939), Whhoopi Goldberg (“Ghost,” 1990), and Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls,” 2006). She thanks the Academy “for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics.” A win for Mo’Nique’s co-star Gabby Sidibe — and perhaps even for best picture — somehow feels a lot more plausible right now.

  • Queen Latifah introduces a montage of highlights from this year’s honorary Oscars ceremony, where John Calley, Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, and Gordon Willis. Corman and Bacall are in attendance, stand up, and get a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. Bacall: talk about a living legend!

9:47pm/est: BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Nominees: “District 9 (Neill Blomkamp/Terri Tatchell), “An Education” (Nick Hornby), “In the Loop” (Jesse Armstrong/Simon Blackwell/Armando Iannucci/Tony Roche), “Precious” (Geoffrey Fletcher), “Up in the Air” (Jason Reitman/Sheldon Turner)
  • Projection: “Precious”
  • Presenter(s): Rachel McAdams and Jake Gyllenhaal

Winner: “PRECIOUS”
Commentary: This is a stunning upset over “Up in the Air” and makes me believe that “Precious” may be a lot stronger in other categories. Fletcher, a soft-spoken, lovely guy, takes the stage to cheers from Sapphire and everyone else associated with the film, among many others. Fletcher becomes the first African-American to ever win an Oscar for a screenplay, either adapted or original.

  • Jeff Bridges introduces the best picture nominee “A Serious Man,” which was directed by the Coen brothers, who also directed him in “The Big Lebowski” (1998). The camera then cuts away to a shot of the directors and voiceover-stars of the film.

9:38pm/est: BEST MAKEUP

  • Nominees: “Il Divo (Aldo Signoretti/Vittorio Sodano), “Star Trek” (Barney Burman/Mindy Hall/Joel Harlow), “The Young Victoria” (Jon Henry Gordon/Jenny Shircore)
  • Projection: “Star Trek”
  • Presenter(s): Ben Stiller

Winner: “STAR TREK”
Commentary
: Stiller takes the stage in full Na’vi makeup, speaking the Na’vi language, and informing James Cameron that he’d like to plug his tail into his tail. Then he announces the winner of the category, in which “Avatar” is not even a nominee. There’s a quick cutaway to “Star Trek” star Pine clapping. (Not sure anyone else from the film is even there.)

9:34pm/est: BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

  • Nominees: The Door (Juanita Wilson/James Flynn), Instead of Abracadabra (Patrik Eklund/Mathias Fjellström), Kavi (Gregg Helvey), Miracle Fish (Luke Doolan/Drew Bailey), The New Tenants (Joachim Back/Tivi Magnusson)
  • Projection: “Miracle Fish”
  • Presenter(s): Carey Mulligan and Zoe Saldana

Winner: “THE NEW TENANTS”
Commentary
: This category is brutally unpredictable — last year they gave it to a Holocaust short, this year to a comedy about a gay couple who move into a troubled apartment building takes the category. Go figure!

9:33pm/est: BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM

  • Nominees: China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province (Jon Alpert/Matthew O’Neill), The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner (Daniel Junge/Henry Ansbacher), The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant (Steven Bognar/Julia Reichert), Music by Prudence (Roger Ross Williams/Elinor Burkett), Rabbit à la Berlin (Bartek Konopka/Anna Wydra)
  • Projection: “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”
  • Presenter(s): Carey Mulligan and Zoe Saldana

Winner: “MUSIC BY PRUDENCE”
Commentary
: This was an incredibly competitive category. Timeliness and sentiment was on the side of “The Last Truck,” but alas. Burkett rudely interrupts Williams’ acceptance speech. Williams becomes the first African-American to win an Oscar in this category.

9:30pm/est: BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

  • Nominees: French Roast (Fabrice O. Joubert), Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell), The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte) (Javier Recio Gracia), Logorama (Nicolas Schmerkin), “A Matter of Loaf and Death” (Nick Park)
  • Projection: “A Matter of Loaf and Death”
  • Presenter(s): Carey Mulligan and Zoe Saldana

Winner: “LOGORAMA”
Commentary
: The win streak of Nick Park’s “Wallace and Gromit” films in this category finally comes to an end. I’m shocked that this film hasn’t been sued yet — it’s basically “Pulp Fiction” starring corporate logos, complete with gunfire and cursing.

  • Samuel L. Jackson introduces the best picture nominee “Up.” The camera then cuts away to a shot of the director and voiceover-stars of the film.
  • Molly Ringwald and Matthew Broderick, who are decidedly not in high school anymore, come out to introduce a special tribute to the late director John Hughes, who specialized in flicks about kids/teens and their troubles throughout the late ’80s and ’90s, and who passed away suddenly last August at the age of 59. Following a video montage of clips from Hughes’ films, a huge group of the stars whose careers owe a great debt to Hughes (including the largely reclusive Macaulay Culkin) take the stage, deliver a few funny and touching remarks about the man, and call the audience’s attention to his family in the audience.

9:11pm/est: BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Nominees: “The Hurt Locker” (Mark Boal),“Inglourious Basterds” (Quentin Tarantino), “The Messenger” (Alessandro Camon/Oren Moverman), “A Serious Man” (Ethan Coen/Joel Coen), “Up” (Bob Peterson/Pete Docter/Thomas McCarthy)
  • Projection: “The Hurt Locker”
  • Presenter(s): Robert Downey, Jr. and Tina Fey

Winner: “THE HURT LOCKER” (MARK BOAL)
Commentary
: Following a back-and-forth about the desires of writers (represented by Fey) and actors (Downey), the nominees are introduced with dialogue read and displayed over footage of the scene to which an original screenplay gave birth. Boal, a reporter who returned from covering EOD units in Iraq and wrote a script based on what he saw, is then honored (over chief rival Tarantino). He especially thanks Bigelow and dedicates the win to the troops who are still in Iraq and to his father, who passed away only a month ago and “would have liked this a lot.”

  • Chris Pine, whose sci-fi film “Star Trek” was denied a best picture nomination by the Academy, graciously introduces the best picture nominee “District 9,” another sci-fi flick with which he has no personal affiliation. The camera then cuts away to a shot of the director and stars of the film.

9:00pm/est: BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • Nominees: “Almost There (“The Princess and the Frog”), “Down in New Orleans” (“The Princess and the Frog”), “Loin de Paname” (“Paris 36”), “Take It All” (“Nine”), “The Weary Kind” (“Crazy Heart”)
  • Projection: “The Weary Kind”
  • Presenter(s): Amanda Seyfried and Miley Cyrus

Winner: “THE WEARY KIND” (“CRAZY HEART”)
Commentary
: Cyrus stumbles a bit with her reading of the teleprompter but makes it look cute by noting, “We’re both kind of nervous — this is our first time doing this!” Following clips of each song being composed and also the scene in which each is featured in its respective film, the announcement is made. This was Bingham’s first nomination; Burnett was previously nominated for the song “Scarlet Tide” in “Cold Mountain” (2003) and also contributed to the films “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (1998) and “Walk the Line” (2005). He also worked on another Jeff Bridges film, “The Big Lebowski” (1998). Bridges and Gyllenhaal, the stars of this film, and Robert Duvall, one of its producers, are visibly delighted.

8:56pm/est: BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

  • Nominees: “Coraline” (Focus Features), “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (Fox Searchlight), “The Princess and the Frog” (Disney), “The Secret of Kells” (GKIDS), “Up” (Disney)
  • Projection: “Up”
  • Presenter(s): Cameron Diaz and Steve Carell

Winner: “UP”
Commentary
: Following a teleprompter blunder (Diaz referred to Carell as “Jude” since Jude Law was originally scheduled to be her co-presenter) and clips featuring the “stars” of the nominees talking to outgoing Oscar Special host Barbara Walters about the honor of being nominated, they cut to the announcement. Pete Docter, who has been at Pixar since “Toy Story” (1995), accepts the award on behalf of all of the people at the studio. “Up” joins “Finding Nemo” (2003), “The Incredibles” (2004), “Ratatouille” (2007), and “WALL-E” (2008) on the list of Pixar productions that have won this category since its establishment in 2001.

  • Ryan Reynolds introduces the best picture nominee “The Blind Side,” which stars his co-star from “The Proposal” Sandra Bullock. The camera then cuts away to a shot of the director and stars of the film.

8:48pm/est: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Nominees: Matt Damon (“Invictus”), Woody Harrelson (“The Messenger”), Christopher Plummer (“The Last Station”), Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”), Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”)
  • Projection: Waltz
  • Presenter(s): Penelope Cruz

Winner: CHRISTOPH WALTZ (“INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS”)
Commentary
: Waltz’s portrayal of the tri-lingual Nazi Col. Hans Landa becomes only the eighth performance delivered largely or entirely in a foreign language to win an acting Oscar; the other seven were Sophia Loren (“Two Women,” 1961) for best actress; Robert De Niro (“The Godfather, Part II,” 1974) for best supporting actor; Meryl Streep (“Sophie’s Choice,” 1982) for best actress; Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God,” 1986) for best actress; Roberto Benigni (“Life Is Beautiful,” 1998) for best actor; Benicio Del Toro (“Traffic,” 2000) for best supporting actor; Marion Cotillard (“La Vie En Rose,” 2007) for best actress; and Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” 2008) for best supporting actress. He also becomes the first actor to win an Oscar for a performance in a Quentin Tarantino-directed film; the four others who have been nominated but lost for their work with the celebrated “actors’ director” are John Travolta (“Pulp Fiction,” 1994) for best actor; Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction,” 1994) for best supporting actor; Uma Thurman (“Pulp Fiction,” 1994) for best supporting actress; and Robert Forster (“Jackie Brown,” 1997) for best supporting actor. Harrelson, Tucci, and 80-year-old Plummer, meanwhile, remain Oscar-less. Upon accepting his statuette from Cruz, Waltz riffs on his iconic line as Landa, “Oscar and Penelope? That’s an uber-bingo!” He also effusively thanks Tarantino, who has called the part of Landa the best he’s ever written, and which Waltz himself has called Shakespearean.

  • Yep, now Martin and Baldwin tap-dance onto the stage together and introduce one another. (It’s been years since we had more than one host of the show — but that’s how it used to be every year during Hollywood’s Golden Age.) The duo riff on each other; their “It’s Complicated” co-star Meryl Streep’s annaul nominations (and losses); “The Last Station”; Vera Farmiga and the pronunciation of “Up in the Air”; Dam vs. Dame Helen Mirren; and Streep again; “Precious” (nice to see Gabby’s mom in the audience, by the way) and its stars; the tendency to deny stand-up comedians Oscars; Woody Harrelson’s proclivity for pot; and James Cameron (slapping on 3-D glasses) and “Avatar”; Cameron’s marriage marriage to Bigelow (she’s clearly uncomfortable); George Clooney (now they’re just ticking off stars to try to keep the TV audience tuned in for as long as possible); Christoph Waltz playing a Nazi obsessed with Jews (and motioning all around the room); Sandra Bullock (“Who doesn’t love Sandra Bullock?” “Well, tonight we might find out!”); the young’ns (Zac Efron and Taylor Lautner, who seem nervous but chuckle at “Take a look at us guys; this is you in five years!”)
  • Harris breaks into a narrative musical number surrounded by dozens of dancers, often shot from above like a Busby Berkeley sequence in a 1930′s musical. So-so lyrics. Gets a sitting-ovation. Now, on with the show?
  • Neil Patrick Harris takes the stage. As he says, “What am I doing here?” Well, I guess because he’s been such a hit hosting every other awards show this year. I expect that this will lead into an introduction of the actual co-hosts, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.
  • Lead actor and lead actress nominees collectively introduced as if they’re on a reality show, provoking a big ovation. (Not sure why the supporting actor and supporting actress nominees aren’t up there with them.) Sidibe and Renner seem happiest to be there. Lots of cut-away shots to famous faces in the crowd.

PRE-SHOW COMMENTARY…

  • One of the neat things about the extended awards season is that it has afforded me more time to meet/pose questions to awards hopefuls. (Here’s a complete list of/links to all of the interviews that I’ve conducted during this award season.) Since voting is over, I feel that I can now say that the coolest of the bunch were — in no particular order — Quentin Tarantino, Anna Kendrick, Woody Harrelson, Viggo Mortensen, George Clooney, Gabby Sidibe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Carey Mulligan, Jeremy Renner, Michelle Monaghan, and Ben Foster.
  • I suspect that the best clue for the best picture race is the Producers Guild of America Award — that was the only other precursor that followed in the Academy’s footsteps by expanding its best picture field to 10 nominees and switching over to a preferential ballot; they anticipated 8 of the Academy’s 10 nominees (they nominated “Invictus” and “Star Trek” over “The Blind Side” and “A Serious Man”); and they wound up picking… “The Hurt Locker.”
  • Some of the challenges of blogging about this year’s Oscar race? Having to…
    • Distinguish between “A Serious Man” and “A Single Man”; “Julia” and “Julie & Julia”; “Up” and “Up in the Air”; and “9,” ”Nine” and “District 9” – before I’d even seen any of them
    • Remember that it’s not “Anvil,” “Bad Lieutenant,” “Capitalism,” “Valentino,” and “Precious,” but rather “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call — New Orleans,” “Capitalism: A Love Story,” “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” and “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
    • Correctly spell and/or pronounce Louie Psihoyos, Lone Scherfig, Gabourey Sidibe, Saoirse Ronan, Neill BlomkampMira Nair, Ben Whishaw, Zooey Deschanel, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Michael Stuhlbarg
  • One of the cooler pieces of news I’ve heard today: the Academy’s producers have instructed presenters to drop the politically-correct line “And the Oscar goes to…” and go back to the original line “And the winner is…” when they open an envelope to announce a winner. See, everything old is new again — and the title of this blog suddenly seems a lot more relevant, don’t you think?!

Tonight, the 82nd Academy Awards will bring an end to the 2009 awards season, providing final answers to questions that we’ve been tackling on this blog every day since the last Oscar show came to an end 378 days ago. If you can’t watch the show or want to better understand what you’re watching, stay right here for complete and up-to-the-minute coverage throughout the evening — we’ll keep you informed about all of the presenters, nominees, winners, and speeches, while providing you with statistical analysis that you won’t find anywhere else. New updates will push down older updates so that you won’t have to scroll down much; you will, however, have to periodically refresh your browser for all the latest. Thanks for choosing to spend the most exciting evening of the year with us!

MY 10 FAVORITE SNAPSHOTS OF THE 2009 AWARDS SEASON

7 Mar

bigelow-boal

I’m not much of a photographer. In fact, I only stopped using disposable cameras and started using a digital camera last year. But, over the course of the past year, I’ve snapped a few photos at each of the stops that I’ve made along the awards trail — the Tribeca, Toronto, and Santa Barbara Film Festivals, the Gotham and Golden Globe awards ceremonies, and various premieres, dinners, and parties — and I figured that there’s no more appropriate a time to share some of them than on the eve of the Academy Awards ceremony that will bring the year to a close. So, without further ado, here are my 10 favorites, in chronological order, each accompanied by a little commentary…

curry-watches-standing-o

“Racing Dreams” Zooms to Front of Pack
School of Visual Arts Theatre, New York City
Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Tribeca Film Festival happens so early in the year (mid to late April) and showcases such small films (which usually don’t yet have distributors) that there’s usually little if any advance buzz about the films, making it terribly hard to decide which are worth your time. Many are not, but this year I got lucky. A publicist-friend told me about the films on which he was working, strongly recommended several, and then mentioned “Racing Dreams” almost as an after-thought. I don’t think a doc about kids trying to become NASCAR drivers sounded that appealing to either of us, but I decided to take a chance on it because it was directed by Marshall Curry (whose previous doc “Street Fight” garnered an Oscar nod) and produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (who I figured I’d like to see in the flesh). Little did I expect that it would be the best doc that I’d see all year; garner a standing ovation throughout its credits; and win Tribeca’s Audience Award. Based on the look on Curry’s face in this photo (seated at about 4 o’clock) as he watched the audience begin to rise to its feet (including Johnson two rows in front of him), I don’t think he expected it either.

clooney-post-goats

The Man of the Hour
Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto
Friday, September 11, 2009

Few people have ever generated more excitement at the Toronto Film Festival than George Clooney, who was in town for the premiere of “Michael Clayton” in 2007 and returned to premiere two films in 2009: “The Men Who Stare at Goats” and “Up in the Air.” While the latter was widely celebrated and went on to earn him a best actor Oscar nod, the former was widely derided and quickly forgotten. In this photo though — taken right after the credits began to roll and the talent took a bow following the “Goats” premiere — Clooney seems perfectly happy, displaying his famous million-dollar smile as he ducks out of the audience.

clooney-hand

Curious George
Private Residence, Toronto
Friday, September 11, 2009

Following the premiere of “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” several members of the press were invited to hop aboard a bus to an undisclosed location in order to celebrate the film along with Clooney and Bridges. After a 20-minute ride, we were dropped off in front of one of the most expensive mansions in Toronto — and greeted by a pen filled with real goats. While Bridges chilled out in a corner with a couple of friends, Clooney was surprisingly gregarious, standing in the center of the room and cordially greeting all comers. Not surprisingly, there were many. At one point, a fellow actor asked him what had happened to his hand, which was heavily bandaged. Clooney’s reps had informed the media that the actor had closed a car door on his own hand, but he could be overheard telling this acquaintance that his new girlfriend was actually the one who’d accidentally shut the door too quickly and he was trying to spare her the media attention. Moments later, he excused himself again to take a phone call, and I quickly snapped this candid shot. Yes, even George Clooney gets hurt; owns a cell phone (a Motorola, if you can believe it!); and makes and takes his own calls.

hugh-jackman-and-valentino

The Last Emperor
The Standard Hotel’s Boom Boom Room, New York City
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On a blisteringly cold night, the fashion and film worlds came together for a party at one of New York’s trendiest new penthouse bars to celebrate the iconic fashion designer Valentino and “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” a doc about his life and work. It was organized by director Matt Tyrnauer and New York-based publicists, who were trying to stir up fresh enthusiasm for the film as Oscar voting neared. (It wound up making the best doc shortlist of 15 films but not the final five.) Among those in attendance were producer/beer heiress Daphne Guinness, talk show host Charlie Rose, actress/socialite Mischa Barton, actor Adrien Brody, producer Brian Grazer, actor Hugh Jackman (who is pictured in this photo listening to Valentino), and Jesus Luz, the 22-year-old disk-jockey who got the gig through a mutual friend of his and Valentino’s: Madonna, who showed up at the end of the party and danced with a few of the buzzed guests (myself included, if you can believe it — I still can’t).

natalie

A Face in the Crowd
Abe & Arthur’s, New York City
Sunday, November 22, 2009

Following the New York premiere of “Brothers,” director Jim Sheridan and stars Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman (whose blue dress became one of the most talked-about fashion items of the year) headed over to Abe & Arthur’s in the Meatpacking District, a magnificent space that packed in a lot of folks. In this photo, Portman — easily the most beautiful woman in this or virtually any room — seems to be moving amongst the crowd as if she was just another anonymous person, as opposed to one of the most famous movie stars in the world, something that one wouldn’t expect to see at this sort of an event. (Sheridan is the white-haired man she is walking past in the photo.) When I spoke with her the following week backstage at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, where she was presented with a career tribute at the ripe old age of 28, she explained that she’s as happy as she’s ever been because she’s finally getting to play confident, intelligent, mature adults on the big screen.

bigelow-boal

The First Lady
Cipriani Wall Street, New York City
Monday, November 30, 2009

I arrived at historic Cipriani long before any of the nominees for the Gotham Indepedent Film Awards that would be held there later in the evening. While strolling around the magnificent space, I ran into a publicist for “The Hurt Locker” and asked how confident she felt about the film winning best ensemble and best picture over “A Serious Man” in a few hours, not to mention throughout the rest of the awards season. The answer? Not very. Throughout the show, my videographer and I hung out in a corridor just off of the main press room where I was conducting 1-on-1 video interviews with several winners and presenters. When we heard that the best picture award was about to be bestowed, I ran into the main press room to watch the announcement on a closed-circuit monitor along with my fellow journalists and the publicist who had expressed her doubts about the film earlier in the evening. Upon hearing that “The Hurt Locker” won, she broke into a little dance before regaining her composure. Moments later, the film’s stars Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty, writer Mark Boal, and director Kathryn Bigelow all made their way into the room to take questions from the small group of journalists gathered there. At one point, I caught the eye of Bigelow, with whom I’d had the privilege of chatting quite extensively earlier in the awards season, and she flashed me a beautiful smile that I captured in the photo you see above. Little did I — or she — know that she would go on to become only the fourth female to ever earn a best director Oscar nod and possibly the first to ever win.

avatar-wins

The (Re-)Coronation
The Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles
Sunday, January 17, 2010

I arrived early to this year’s Golden Globe Awards and snagged a front-row-center seat in the press room, where all of the winners swing by to take questions moments after they leave the stage. We were visited by the likes of Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, and the entire casts of “Mad Men” and “Glee,” but the biggest winners of the night were clearly the folks behind “Avatar,” especially its writer-director-producer James Cameron. Cameron, who won best director and best picture (drama) at the show (and then lost all subsequent awards in both categories to his ex-wife and her film “The Hurt Locker”), was clearly thrilled to be back on top, which prompted me to ask him the rather cheeky question: “Is it fair to say you’re still the king of the world?” Most journalists’ questions were directed at Cameron, rather than his collaborators who accompanied him to the podium (actors Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver, as well as producer Jon Landau), and Cameron seemed more than happy to lecture at-length from the podium about the technology advances of “Avatar,” the underappreciation of acting in CGI films, and many other subjects. I think this photo captures, as well as any, Cameron’s return to the winner’s circle — even if it only lasted for a night.

cameron-arnold

He’ll Be Back!
Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara
Saturday, February 6, 2010

Part-time Santa Barbara resident James Cameron was invited to receive the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Modern Master Award this year. The evening-long tribute got off to a rocky start, though, when Cameron began delivering his acceptance speech prior to participating in a Q&A with moderator Leonard Maltin. Maltin, who might have allowed Cameron to proceed, seemed anxious to get the Q&A started, and eventually interrupted Cameron to bring him up to speed. Then, once their discussion got underway, Maltin inexplicably seemed to rush past large portions of Cameron’s life and career. After Maltin introduced clips of Cameron’s work on “The Terminator” films, it finally became clear why things had been so out-of-whack: Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California and the star of the aforementioned films, had flown in to present Cameron with his award himself, and was introduced to do so right in the middle of the Q&A because he had to leave immediately afterward in order to catch a flight back to Sacramento. Though the press had been notified about the special appearance prior to the ceremony, Cameron seemed genuinely surprised. This photo shows Cameron after he walked over to greet Schwarzenegger and accept his award. As Schwarzenegger began to leave, he stopped himself, turned around to the microphone, and winkingly remarked, “I’ll be back!”

quentin-and-kirk-hug

The Odd Couple
Lobero Theatre’s Green Room, Santa Barbara
Sunday, February 7, 2010

The most memorable event at this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival was viewed by only a handful of folks who were willing to miss the Super Bowl in order to witness a unique moment in film history: Quentin Tarantino, the 46-year-old writer-director, interviewed Kirk Douglas, the 93-year-old legendary actor-director, following a screening of Douglas’ 1975 directorial effort “Posse,” which the film history buff Tarantino had specifically suggested be shown instead of more famous Douglas films like “Lust for Life” or “Spartacus.” The event — which Tarantino labeled “not a Q&A but a Q&K” — was a gesture of thanks from Tarantino, to whom Douglas and the festival had presented the fourth annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film back in October 2009. I happened to be hanging out in the green room when Douglas arrived, and the photo above captures the lovely moment when Tarantino, a man known for violent movies, gently greeted one of his heroes — who emphasized during the Q&A that the admiration was mutual.

bridges-autographs

The Dude Comes Home
Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara
Sunday, February 14, 2010

On the last day of this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival, local hero Jeff Bridges stopped by for a Q&A with my fellow Oscar blogger Kris Tapley following a screening of “Crazy Heart,” the film for which he was/is widely expected to win the best actor Oscar. As the Q&A came to an end, the mayor of Santa Barbara surprised Bridges with a formal proclamation declaring it Jeff Bridges Day in the city. Bridges seemed very touched, hugged the mayor, and then graciously stuck around for several minutes to sign autographs for many of the people who had packed the Lobero Theatre for his event. I snagged this photo from the corner of the stage, and particularly like it because it captures Bridges in profile, with his shadow clearly visible behind him, as well as the genuine adoration and excitement of the folks who were clammoring for his attention.

All photos featured in this post were taken by/are the property of Scott Feinberg.