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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd


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"I loved Clarke's scenes with Edgerton in The Great Gatsby. I thought, oh now I'm watching men not boys, and now I'm watching actors not movie stars.-Adri

"He has become someone I look for in films because he always comes across with such honesty." -Henry


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Happy Turkey (and Muppets) Day

Marilyn Monroe and TurkeyWe've been watching the Macy's Parade while cleaning / cooking and there has literally yet to be a musical number from Broadway that's NOT movie-based as I type this. Should've live-blogged and talked Sister Act, Spider-Man, Priscilla, How To Succeed, Newsies and more... Broadway is basically movies on stage now, with a special emphasis on 1990s comedies.

Meanwhile at the multiplex, it won't just be turkeys slaughtered for today's festivities. In Hollywood's infinite wisdom, three showbiz-centric movies for adults must open simultaneously (The Artist, My Week With Marilyn, Hugo) and three movies children might like (Hugo, The Muppets, Arthur Christmas ...two of which are obviously for adults) must open in direct competition as well. There probably won't be enough dollars to go around which is sad because the same ticket buyer might well like all of those movies. On balance, this is an absurdly high quality crop, not one, well, turkey in the batch [Disclaimer: Arthur Christmas is the only one I haven't seen but I hear good things.] 

If all five of those newly released options weren't enough, Oscar maniacs can also sample The Descendants (expanding) and, in NY & LA, A Dangerous Method and Rampart. In case you haven't been keeping up and since we're hosting a big dinner, here are past thoughts...

THE ARTIST ~ review | all posts | best pic race | interviews soon
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN review | more Marilyn on the way
HUGO  ~ the filmmakers speak | work in progress thoughts |  all 
A DANGEROUS METHOD ~ several reviews from our team
RAMPART - all posts | best actor race 

As for THE MUPPETS... I didn't have time to review the new film before guests started arriving but I'd love to hear your thoughts. I found it quite uneven even within both of the narratives. The Muppet reunion brand relaunch is what I came to see and the nostalgia factor there worked like a charm. But individual scenes didn't always sparkle and I wanted more funny performances and less story beats. Meanwhile the musical comedy factor seemed to fall mostly to the Jason Segel / Amy Adams / "Walter" coming-of-age storyline which I liked much more than I was expecting to -- great sight gags in the beginning and Amy Adams could not be a better fit for the Muppet world -- until I didn't. By the time the three of them met The Muppets I was over it because... THE MUPPETS; stop distracting me from them! So my reaction was all over the place and far more colored by my own childhood fixations rather than the movie itself. But if you grew up loving The Muppets it's a total must-see. I recently rented the DVDs of the original series and it is crazy enjoyable -- like giddy-smile making -- just as we all remember. In fact, after watching three episodes back to back I think TV needs a relaunch of The Muppet Show more than the movies need the muppets. Variety shows are sort of back given the plethora of performance competitions but the variety has gone out of them as they are the same thing over and over again, whether that's contemporary pop karaoke or dancing.

One of the new songs "Life's a Happy Song" (Bret McKenzie --yay!) is a total charmer and should give the felt fuzzy group their fourth music-related Oscar nomination (the first three films all won one nomination in Song or Score categories.)


Do your Thanksgiving plans include movies? Have you seen The Muppets yet?


Super 8 and Makeup: A Love Story for the Oscars

Could you close your eyes, please?"

Super 8's leading character Joe Lamb is a movie makeup and effects fan. He taught himself how to do all the major Hollywood techniques with the Dick Smith mail-away instructions course. He can do beauty makeup, zombies, and bloody injuries. He's just a big budget and two years away from Oscar glory in 1979 when the film takes place.

The first Academy Award for Best Makeup was presented at the 54th ceremony, honoring films released in 1981. Since then, it has been a category that has confounded and confused Oscar prognosticators. What seems like a guaranteed nominee to a non-voting member of the Academy is ignored, while less well-received films with one good character go down as nominees. It feels like the standards and interests of the voters change from year to year almost on a whim. Will they go for full-body human transformations or bizarre alien creations? Cartoonish monsters in a kids film or grizzly beasts in an R-rated horror? Those tend to be the mainstays, except for the years where they go for elaborate period epics or subtle character-defining facial alterations.

Super 8 feels like the kind of film that could sneak in for a nomination because it forces the watcher to pay attention to the quality of the makeup. The protagonist lovingly talks about the same books that many modern makeup artists claim they used to learn the fundamentals of the craft. The Dick Smith books are still considered the gold standard and are constantly updated to reflect new industry techniques. Small details like this permeate the first hour of the film as a siren's song to makeup professionals and enthusiasts. If you talk enough about a film's makeup, people are going to notice the makeup.

What Joe Lamb the character accomplishes with a tackle box of grease-paint and some fake blood is at the calibre of professional work from the late 1970s. For every scene that pays tribute to 30+ year old techniques, there is another scene that acts as a stylish and gritty display of what modern practical makeup looks like in 2011. From the dirt and scratches covering the kids after the train derailment to the festering wounds on a character's head, there are very few scenes in Super 8 that just rely on everyday natural film makeup. It's a film that screams for attention for Deborah La Mia Denavar's makeup team.

Will horror nostalgia and blunt realism be enough to grab the attention of the voters? According to the rules for the 84th Annual Academy Awards, each film submitted for Best Makeup needs to get at least 15 votes to even be considered for a nomination. The top 7 vote getters (if more than 7 meet the 15 vote threshold) are then required to provide up to 10 minutes of edited footage to showcase the makeup techniques. All nominations are made based off of preferential ballots for the top 3 screened excerpts from films. That means a whole lot of films could be left out just because their written application of makeup techniques didn't grab the voters.

What films do you think will even make it past the 15 vote minimum to be eligible for a nomination?


mahna mahna (link-link-lee-link-link) mahna manha (link-link-lee-link) ♫

Stale Popcorn on the Giant Face of Chris Pine and weird twin hands on the This Means War poster.
Empire Ken Watanabe is in discussions for a role in the live action adaptation of Akira. Now, y'all know how much I hate the future existence of the movie but casting one Asian actor is not going to help. Just like the decision not to change the character names this will only remind people that this movie was super racist in its casting and opted out of Asian actors in the lead Asian roles.

Awards Daily Sasha is sticking by Viola Davis (The Help) for a Best Actress win for now, despite the people screaming "Streep Streep Streep"
The Wow Report the cast of Absolutely Fabulous in 2011.
New York Times 101 Notable Books of 2011. Whoa, get reading, you!
Twitch makes a plea for action flick Fast Five for Best Editing. For your consideration... 

80s Flashback
Press Play is looking at movies about grief in a very personal way. I loveRunning on Empty (1988) so much so I'm always glad to see a piece celebrating its emotional potency.
Between the Pages a Little Shop of Horrrors Cake. Wow. I think it's suppertime.

Muppet Mania
Aint It Cool I suspect this total love mixed with declining opinion will start happening more and more withThe Muppets (2011) but the total love you first feel makes it well worth seeing.
Gold Derby Can the Muppets finally win an Oscar? They've been waiting even longer than Glenn Close ;) since their first nomination came in 1979.  

Slate on the origins of the Muppets catchy signature nonsense "Mahna-Mahna" 
In Contention the sound of the Muppets. 


Do Movies About Movies Win Oscars?

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) has had it with the movies in "The Artist"Over at Fandor's Keyframe blog I'll be musing about the Oscar race on a biweekly basis. This week's topic is the unusual abundance of movies about movies in this year's Oscar race from Marilyn Monroe (My Week With Marilyn) to George Melies (Hugo) to Hollywood's seismic sound shift in the late 20s (The Artist). But one thing I didn't dwell on too much in the article (which I hope you'll go and read!) is the lack of Oscars won for movies about movies.

Everyone predicting a win for The Artist (2011) before the nominations are even announced should consider the following list and sobering fact: No movie about movies has ever won Best Picture.

Movies About Movies: How Do They Do With Oscar?
(Best Picture Nominees are in red) 

Janet Gaynor (already an Oscar winner) was nominated again for playing an actress who wins a fictional Oscar in "A Star is Born"1930s
What Price Hollywood (1 nomination. 0 wins)
A Star is Born (7 nominations. 1 win + 1 honorary) 

Was Hollywood too busy with patriotism to make movies about movies? Or were they still too enamored by live theater to turn their cameras on themselves?

Sunset Blvd  (11 nominations. 3 wins)
The Bad and the Beautiful (6 nominations. 5 wins)
The Star (1 nomination. 0 wins)
Singin' in the Rain (2 nominations. 0 wins)
A Star is Born (6 nominations. 0 wins)

Sweet Bird of Youth (3 nominations. 1 win)
8 ½ (5 nominations. 2 wins) 
Inside Daisy Clover (3 nominations. 0 wins)
The Oscar (2 nominations. 0 wins)

Day For Night (4 nominations. 1 win) 
The Way We Were (6 nominations. 2 wins)
The Day of the Locust (2 nominations. 0 wins)
California Suite (3 nominations. 1 win)
All That Jazz (9 nominations. 4 wins) 

The Stunt Man (3 nominations. 0 wins)
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1 nomination. 0 wins)
The Kiss of the Spider Woman (4 nominations. 1 win)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (6 nominations. 3 wins. 1 special achievement.)
Cinema Paradiso (1 nomination. 1 win) 

Baby Herman (a handful off camera) and Roger Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)... which would have been a worthy Best Picture contender.

Postcards from the Edge (2 nominations. 0 wins)
Bugsy (10 nominations. 2 wins)
Barton Fink (3 nominations. 0 wins)
Chaplin (3 nominations. 0 wins)
The Player (3 nominations. 0 wins)
Ed Wood (2 nominations. 2 wins)
Boogie Nights (3 nominations. 0 wins)
Gods and Monsters (3 nominations. 1 win) 

Jude Law as Errol Flynn and Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator"2000s
Shadow of the Vampire (2 nominations. 0 wins)
Mulholland Dr (1 nomination. 0 wins)
Adaptation (4 nominations. 1 win)
The Aviator (11 nominations. 5 wins)
Tropic Thunder (1 nomination. 0 wins)
Nine (4 nominations. 0 wins)
Inglourious Basterds (8 nominations. 1 win) 

The Artist (we shall see)
My Week With Marilyn (we shall see)
Hugo (we shall see)

A semi-random selection of movies about movies that Oscar ignored: The Cameraman, Man With a Movie Camera, Sullivan's Travels, Stand-In, Peeping Tom, Contempt, Beware of a Holy Whore, F For Fake, The Last Action Hero, Stardust Memories, Blow Out, The Majestic, Irma Vep, Living in Oblivion, Be Kind Rewind, Guilty by Suspicion, Los Angeles Plays Itself,  etc...

You'd think that Hollywood's High Holy Night, which is one big self-congratulatory spectacle, would embrace movies about movies and they do to a point. But perhaps even Hollywood's notoriously fulsome egos feel sheepish about taking it all the way. Do they fear it would be overkill, the back-patting night of nights morphing into something far more orgiastic, a daisy chain of self regard? 

What are your favorite movies about movies? Do you think The Artist can buck the trends here?

Related: my new keyframe article and a previous roundup on Keyframe "top ten films about filmmaking" which I also had the pleasure of contributing to and which should give you plenty of rental ideas.


The Only Upside of 3D That I Can See...

... is that we get great movies back in theaters where they're meant to be seen. If it takes a 3D conversion, well that's what it takes.

Next year, the only animated picture ever nominated for Best Picture in a field of five films -- don't you love the qualifier? -- Beauty and the Beast will arrive in the January graveyard. That's the month usually reserved for slow-ass expansions of Oscar nominees and terrible Nic Cage movies. Later in the year Titanic arrives for the centennial of the infamous watery disaster. That's good news: 2012 is guaranteed to have at least two great movies. (Yep, I love both of them.)

Given that many of the biggest hits of all time are epically romantic, why is Hollywood making so few romantic movies?

Remember early in the year when articles started popping up suggesting that 3D would be shortlived (as it's always been in the past) since its market share was starting to ebb after all the 2009  Avatar excitement and the perfectly timed hideous 2010 cash-in of Eyesore in Wonderland ? Good times. Yet the statistics, which suggested that the novelty appeal was wearing off and many people would prefer to go back to 2D, were too optimistically misleading. The further along we march post Avatar, the more the industry invests in 3D with an eye towards the next thing "Holograms!" and the the less likely it seems that it will ever be leaving us.

Which makes me sad. I hate the glasses. I hate the fussiness of it. I really enjoyed Hugo EXCEPT for the 3D. It's done very very well (that team of filmmakers is top-notch) and looks beautiful but who needs all those dog noses and hands shoved in their faces? If I want "immersive" entertainment experiences, I'll just pick a good movie to see. The good ones are always immersive, no glasses required. 

Even in films where 3D feels conceptually right somehow, like in Pina where you can understand the spatial relations of the choreography or in Hugo where the 3D plays into the idea of film artists experimenting with a new technological medium I have never once thought "Oh, I'm so glad this wasn't in 2D!" But It's looking like it's here to say. Major film artists like Herzog, Scorsese and Cameron and so on are beating the artistic drum for it and the studios are happy with the short-sighted extra bucks they can charge for it. I say shortsighted because if they keep raising the prices, they price themselves out of relevancy and further cement TV as the opiate of the masses, far and away more popular than film; don't think the price points aren't a major part of that.

How long before we have to split the cinematography Oscar categories like they used to have to with black and white vs. color until black and white I mean 2D is totally gone? Sigh.

So while I shed my little psychic tears about the death of my favorite medium as it becomes something else entirely -- I love holograms but I don't really think of them as "movies". Can't we have both? -- I take comfort that I'm not alone and that I have one bright side. It's an obvious bright side now that Belle and the Beast will soon be spinning in ballrooms and Jack & Rose will be falling in love above and below deck again. Presumably more grand entertainments will follow. Encore!


"Open Up and Say... 'AAAAaaahhhvengers'"

I find these very disturbing all lined up like so...

Shouldn't the letters read Avengers when it's in banner form -- it's the exact right amount of characters -- and  a simple logoriffic "A" when it's not. Otherwise it's all "say AAAAAAaaaaaahhhhh"

Please note that ScarJo is the only player who gets a butt shot. That's part of the whole gender typing superhero sexualization disparity thing as seen here and here.


The Covers The Dreamers And Me

[Editor's note: It's Muppet Week! I asked  Team Experience to share their favorite Muppet memories. Like JA, I'm 1000% in love with this 1979 Oscar Nominee for Best Song. Feel free to sing along. - Nathaniel] 

JA from MNPP here. Let's just get this outta the way right up front - "The Rainbow Connection" is my favorite song of all time. It's also part of one of my earliest memories, and definitely my very first movie memory - I couldn't have been more than three or four and I'd been dropped off at a babysitter's house for the first time ever while my parents took off to do god knows what. I was miserable, horrified, I distinctly remember the babysitter staring at me with terror in her eyes as I bawled like a maniac (so much time has passed and the only thing that's changed is now it's my boyfriend's face giving me that look).
But it all changed as soon as the babysitter turned on the TV and whaddya know, there was The Muppet Movie just starting. Some little green frog was warbling his little tune on his little banjo on his little log in his little swamp, and magic - Muppet and movie alike - carried me away, and I've never looked back. When my parents showed up before the movie was over I refused to leave until it ended - a cinemaniac (with a secret felt fetish, shh) was born.

Thirty years or so have passed since that life-defining moment, and  I will still break into immediate awestruck tears when I hear it. Lines like "I've heard it too many times to ignore it. It's something that I'm s'posed to be..." actually honestly helped me through the coming out process in my early 20s. The debt of gratitude for forming a basic piece of who I am - and a really basic decent part, I think I can say truthfully - that I owe to Jim Henson and songwriters Paul Williams and Kennth Ascher is beyond measure.
So with The Muppets out in theaters this week, I figured we could take a look back at that song and the thirty years that it's been a living breathing beautiful thing in our lives. There are literally dozens of these to pick from but here are my five of my favorite covers!