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Oscar History

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Oscar Horrors: Kathy Bates in Misery

"A miracle of a performance." -Mike

"Horrible, unwatchable performance." -Patryk

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Tim's Toons: Why the animated Batman is the best Batman

Tim here. During this week’s edition of Hit Me with Your Best Shot, it came as, I assume, no real surprise that my pick came from the animated Batman feature, Mask of the Phantasm. But it’s not just a fixed obsession with animation that led to that choice: it’s my earnest belief that there has never been a better adaptation of Batman in any audio-visual medium than the dark, broody cartoon series that filled in the gap between the theatrical releases of 1992’s Batman Returns and 1995’s Batman Forever. So before we fully leave off our tribute to Batman’s 75th anniversary, I’d like to invite you to join me in a brief appreciation of Batman: The Animated Series.

That animation would be a good fit for a superhero comic adaptation shouldn’t be surprising on any level, of course: drawings to drawings, rather than drawings to real-world actors, limited by the rules of physics (just think about how much easier it is to make masks look expressive when you’re not bound by things that masks can actually do). And a weekly TV series is more akin to the structure of a monthly comic book, with shorter stories based around more clear-cut scenarios than superhero tend to boast. But there obviously has to be more to it than just that, or I could just as easily make this same argument in favor of The All-New Super Friends Hour, and apologies to the Wonder Twins fans, but no. Just no.


Click to read more ...



Complex imagining TV prequels to movies. Hilarious. The description of "Kramer Loves Kramer" is priceless.
New Republic "I don't f***ing care if you like it." an excellent piece on gender politics in the now with framing guest appearance by Amy Poehler
In Contention David Fincher's Gone Girl will open NYFF this year. Yay!
AV Club "I Killed At the Movies" interesting article from Ignatiy Vishnevetsky on film criticism for the camera


The Dissolve an excellent review of Sex Tape which I have no plans to see and therefore can read interesting reviews freely
Daily Mail Sullivan Stapleton gets an Animal Kingdom tattoo
Variety Ben Whishaw will be the new voice of Paddington
Cinematically Insane on possible corporate mergers and what that might mean for classic film fans. Uh oh.
Pajiba Ewan McGregor rumored for True Detective Season 2? (at this rate with the male cast the female role is going to be supporting)
VF Hollywood Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston seen dining together. This changes everything!
The Wire dissects the VMA nominations. I didn't realize they'd happen but there's lots of Beyoncé of course
Kenneth in the (212) Desperately Seeking Susan finally coming out on Blu-Ray 

And look at this beautiful poster of The One I Love. I am the one that loves it. I loves it much. I hear the movie is really good too but I haven't yet seen it.


Elaine Stritch (1925-2014)

When Colleen Donaghy died on 30 Rock in the episode "My Whole Life is Thunder" I tried to think of it as tragicomic rehearsal. A chance to acknowledge that death was coming for the beloved theater great but to laugh at it or at least about its absurd finality.

Elaine Stritch herself wouldn't have approved of my wussiness. She might've said something like "it's me who's dying, not you!" (albeit in a much funnier manner) because she had a tart tongue and was quite a truth teller. In the documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (reviewed) released early this year she references her impending death more than a little as she prepares to move back home (Detroit) and retire finally, in her late eighties, for good.

But even this documentary didn't quite convince me that she was leaving us.

I saw Elaine Stritch’s famous one woman Broadway show “At Liberty” in early 2002 a couple of years after moving to New York. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was nothing short of spiritual ecstasy but then showbiz is my religion and actresses are my only gods. 

 I had mythologized her, you can see in that excerpt of that intro to my review of that documentary. How could Death conquer such a life force?

It wasn't until after the special screening here in NYC that Stritch (or as I like to call her "Stritchieeeeeeeee!" imitating her imitation of an angry director in At Liberty) was wheeled out to greet us that it finally sunk in. She looked undeniably more like a feeble old woman than the  giant of the theater in white shirt and black tights that I was accustomed to looking up at with awe.

The last time I'd seen Stritchieeee in the flesh before that she was also in a wheelchair. It was late 2010 when she took over for Angela Lansbury in the Broadway Revival of "A Little Night Music." She sings her big number "Liaisons" from a wheelchair. But that was just acting. More rehearsal.

When Elaine set out to do something she worked her ass off until she did it right. 

So here's to the girls on the go--
Everybody tries.
Look into their eyes,
And you'll see what they know:
Everybody dies.
A toast to that invincible bunch,
The dinosaurs surviving the crunch.
Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch--
Everybody rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!

And this Tony and Emmy winning legend did it right. A final round of thunderous applause please because this time there's no more encores. 


Open Thread & Movie Naps

What's on your cinematic mind? Discuss as I finish a few more Oscar charts.

Anyone know which Manhattan movie theater this is? I thought Film Forum at first but the building next to it looks wrong.

I woke up thinking about Ingmar Bergman movies because in Summer Wishes Winter Dreams (1973) Joanne Woodward and her mother Sylvia Sidney take in Wild Strawberries. Joanne immediately falls asleep which you should never do at great movies. Bad Joanne, bad! But how funny is it that one of the Oscar nominated films of 1973 has a  Bergman scene in it in the same year that the Academy went wild for Cries and Whispers? And then I thought about how evil it was for me to program two awesome but gruellingly enigmatic movies in a row for Best Shot (Under the Skin then Cries & Whispers) but they are going to make such amazing 'hit me with your best shot' episodes. Movies that leave a lot of room for the audience to wander around in deserve audiences that will do the wandering if you what I mean. 


Introducing Pt 1... Supporting Actresses of 1973

You've met our awesome panelists (Dana Delany, Karina Longworth, Mark Harris, Bill Chambers, Kyle Turner, and myself, Nathaniel) and on July 31st when the Smackdown arrives you'll hear from us again. Let's meet the characters we'll be discussing.

As is our new Smackdown tradition we begin by showing you how the performances themselves begin. There's usually some point in every nominated performance when it clicks in... here's the scene that did it. That can come as early as the introduction for some characters. At the very least the intro is the springboard for every thing you'll see about the character from then on. Do these introductions scream "shower me with gold statues!"? Do the filmmakers prepare us for what's ahead? Here's how 3 of the 5 nominees are introduced in the order of how quickly they arrive in their movies.

[No Dialogue]

Immediately. Meet "Addie Loggins" (Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon)
This is the first shot of Paper Moon and the camera will rarely leave little Addie (Tatum O'Neal) again in the greatest case of Category Fraud ever perpetrated at the Oscars. She is staring tearless into her mother's freshly dug grave, flanked by unaffectionate adults who immediately pawn her off post-funeral to a stranger who bears a striking resemblance (Ryan O'Neal). He's meant to drive her to only kin, an Aunt she doesn't know. Tatum's/Addie's resistance to charming you or her co-stars actually proves better than charming, drawing you completely in to that poker face. Three minutes later she finally speaks and seems less child-like; she's all business, suspiciously scoping out her new situation and this "friend" of her mother's. 

Rita: Who is this?
Mrs Pritchett: Who do you think it is?
Rita: Why do you sound so strange?
Mrs Pritchett: I'm at Saks. 

5 minutes in. Meet "Mrs Pritchett" (Sylvia Sidney in Summer Wishes Winter Dreams)
We've spent enough time with Rita (Joanne Woodward), our protagonist, to know that she's neurotic and unhappy; the first scene is an actual nightmare. A phone call wakes her up. Disoriented from sleeping she doesn't recognize her own mother's voice. (That's Sylvia Sidney who today's moviegoers probably remember best from Beetlejuice.) Forget the dialogue as being at Saks is hardly a strange occurence judging from her expensive clothing and multiple shopping bags. The picture of their relationship is instantly clear: they bicker, they're terse with each other, they meet every week for lunch which is why the mother is calling and what they're about to do. One assumes then that the picture will be an acidic mother/daughter drama. But is that what's coming?

Now don't you drop nuthin' Imogene. You take care of those breakables, y'understand?

40 minutes in. Meet "Trixie Delight" (Madeline Kahn in Paper Moon)
This is one of those highlighted intros that a movie prepares you for, shouting 'New Chapter'.  It draws its comic energy from the "cut to". We're sitting in a hotel room with Addie and her exasperated shouting Daddy who explains that there'll be two new women in the car, a "lady" and her maid...


Cut to: Madeline Kahn strutting out of the carnival's nudie tent "HAREM SLAVE - WORLD FAMOUS GIRLS", boobs bouncing. A real lady from a good family, eh? Kahn wins her first big laugh with literally her first second of screen time. There will be more. 

Do the introductions make you want to see more?
(In part 2 we'll look at the other nominees)

[If you'd like to participate in the Smackdown make sure to vote on the nominated performances (only the ones you've seen please, underseen performances are not penalized as votes are averaged out) by rating the nominees on a scale of 1 (inadequate) to 5 (beyond excellent) hearts.]


Lukewarm Off Presses: Colin, Emma, Birdman and Thor

You might have thought you were done discussing these but I'm just getting around to posting about them, so don't shut your trap just yet. Here's five stories that we didn't get to in anything like a timely fashion but so what? Time is a flat circle

I was going to wait to post about this until it was official and not just "in talks" but since the internet moves with the speed of everything casually mentioned as fact that everyone is aware of and will be old tomorrow, it should be noted that it looks like Colin Farrell will be the leading man of True Detective Season 2 (possibly Taylor Kitsch beside him). Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey will be tough shoes to fill but as I relayed on twitter, he's a smart idea because people will be surprised when he's great because they haven't noticed that he often is. It's very Matthew McConaughey if you think about it. An actor who was always talented and then only through a unique set of career moves did people admit it and suddenly acted like he was a brand new actor. And then they overpraised but that's another topic. 

Colin has been utterly amazing a couple of times (Tigerland and In Bruges) but even in his less heralded successful or more divisive pieces where the performance arguably feels more strained (A Home at the End of the World, Alexander, Saving Mr Banks) he often feels like he's reaching for greatness. He doesn't phone it in... which is more than can be said for many actors who get paychecks that big.

The Fall Film Festivals are approaching which means before too long I will be having weekly nervous breakdowns trying to keep up with all the news and discuss all the Oscar buzz. I'm waiting on my TIFF credentials now but it's exciting to hear that Venice will open with Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance starring Michael Keaton and Emma Stone. (I had never quite processed that it had a longer title than just "Birdman" though we've already discussed the brilliant trailer) Websites are already speculating on which films will show up at which festivals but I prefer not to try and guess. Half the excitement of festivals is all the "another present? for me!? ABUNDANCE!" elation that comes with discovering the goods. And since I can't afford to go to them all I don't want to worry about the films I'm missing at the other ones.

It's probably worth mentioning that Marvel has announced that we'll have a female Thor for awhile (in the comics. Don't worry for Chris Hemsworth's career just yet) and she'll be wielding Mjölnir. Superheroes are replaced more often than the layman thinks within comics (and actors are replaced in movies too -Bruce Banner holla!) but it almost always reverts back to the original guy.

Besides messing up all of our favorite Thor/Dr Horrible jokes...

...this news bugs me for two reasons.

  1. A female hero (Yay!) but she'll just be a glorified substitute (Boo!) for the real thing (a man, natch). What kind of message is that sending?
  2. This is in the comics where there have been several female superheroes given their own books over time. What we need is a female superhero at the movies. That would still be revolutionary which is a pretty pathetic thing to type in 2014. Female characters have been carrying stories in virtually ever medium for as long as any of those mediums existed. And yet the studios are still assuming that female superheroes can't carry movies... don't they realize that two of our top ten grossers this year thus far are essentially female superhero movies (Divergent & Maleficent) but not by name and in entirely different genres.


soon every movie will be a bit expensive one episode season of a tv seriesStory 4 FRANCHISES WILL BE THE DEATH OF US ALL
There's some speculation happening in the superhero-crazed internet (when isn't there?) that Sony is rethinking that whole Amazing Spider-Man reboot thing now that the movies are underperforming and just as they were announcing a whole set of spinoff movies around them. Release Emma* & Andrew into the wild again, I BEG YOU!

"Underperforming" is a sad word when these movies should have bombed spectacularly. Shouldn't you at least have to wait for another generation to arrive before you yell "do over!"? All the movie studios want to essentially make movies into multiple TV series that release one big expensive 2 hour long episode each season so there are 22 superhero films on the way in the next 4 years and Universal is now going to try an interconnected Classic Monsters Universe. Um, none of those monsters except for the Invisible Man ever went away? Talk about long running franchises. I guess, in keeping with tradition, we should start complaining now that the Bride of Frankenstein is never going to get her own solo movie so it's another universe that will utterly fail the Bechdel Test.

Tell me something that will give me hope for the future in the comments!

* Story 5: EMMA & WOODY
Since Emma Stone was already name-checked twice in this post ... let's note that she is also filming her second Woody Allen movie in a row (Untitled 2015) before Magic in the Moonlight has even landed so expect media stories about Emma as Woody's new muse in  3...2...1...

Do you think she'll pull a Scarlett and make a third? Her romantic interest isn't Colin Firth this time.




Manic Linky Blog Boy

Salon Nathan Rabin apologies for coining the term "Manix Pixie Dream Girl" (Must Read!)
Dazed Director David Gordon Green cites 10 new directors we should all familiarize ourselves with including the directors of Land Ho! and Blue Ruin two acclaimed indies this year
Variety Uma Thurman auctioning off an evening with her complete with cocktails and a Pulp Fiction screening. The journalist writing this must be very young because they refer to Tarantino's smash as "the movie that launched her career". Umm... she'd already been famous for 6 years at that point and had headlined movies. Fact check anyone?
Gold Derby which episode could win Kevin Spacey the Emmy this year? (My guess: none) 

Superhero Hype interviews the producers of the new TV series Agent Carter (starring Hayley Atwell) which takes place after Captain America: The First Avenger but still in the 1940s
Guardian Mowgli, the only onscreen actor, cast in Jon Favreau's otherwise CGI Jungle Book. Do you think he's sweating considering Andy Serkis' rival motion capture Jungle Book?
Business Insider interesting interview with Hasbro on how toys become movies
Hollywood Elsewhere objects to the poster for The Skeleton Twins. Do you?
Empire new teaser poster for the horror movie Horns with Daniel Radcliffe. Wasn't that supposed to come like 3 years ago. Feels like I've been hearing about it since time began
In Contention new actors added to the Jesse Owens biopic Race. Glad to see that the departure of John Boyega for those new Star Wars movies didn't throw that one off course. 
Kenneth in the (212) what do you think of the Whitney & Bobby actors? 
Playbill last chance to see Rocky the Musical on Broadway. The boxing musical (what a weird combo, eh?) will close in August
EW first official stills from Avengers: Age of Ultron 

And here's my vote for Tweet of the Day via The Film Stage




I love Crash (Cronenberg version) so I was 100% delighted by this joke until it reminded that James Spader is still everywhere (ugh) on film and television despite being a majorly irritating screen presence. Well, we'll always have sex, lies and videotape (1989);  he was wonderful that one time.