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Entries in biopics (108)

Wednesday
Apr012015

Best Shot Visual Index: Mommie Dearest (1981)

For our April Fools tradition of celebrating 'bad movies we love' (last year it was Can't Stop the Music) we opted for Frank Perry's ill-fated but extremely memorable Mommie Dearest (1981). The film, which was quickly adapted from Christina Crawford's 1978 best-selling memoir (published just a year after her famous mother's death), starred Faye Dunaway as the great movie star and Mara Hobel and Diana Scarwid as Christina, Steve Forrest as Crawford's longtime boyfriend Gregg Savitt and Rutanya Alda as Crawford's loyal assistant Carol Ann. The book was controversial in its day, with many stars defending their former co-star but the stories stuck in the public consciousness and the movie lives on in infamy. It was greeted with much derision, winning multiple Razzies (the entire principle cast just listed was nominated in their individual acting categories) but Dunaway's work, oft-quoted and beloved to this day in certain communites (ahem), has always had its share of valiant defenders.

Paul Lohmannn (Nashville, High Anxiety) was the director of photography and here are the films most memorable or "best" shots, according to participants around the web.

MOMMIE DEAREST BEST SHOTS
13 images chosen by 14 blogs
Click on the images to read the corresponding articles 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Feb132015

Best Make-Up & Hairstyling: Freaks, Schnozz, or Old Lady?

They use to disqualify movies from this Oscar if they used too much computer enhancement (see The Hours) and always wanted their makeup effects practical (like American Werewolf in London). But nowadays computer enhancements seem to be a non-issue (see several recent winners and one of this year's nominees Guardians of the Galaxy). There are four indisputable truths about this relatively young category and this Oscar branch and they are like so:

• They love old age makeup
• They worship werewolves and love fantastically weird creatures, but hate zombies
• Hairstyling was recently added to the official category name but usually the wig heavy movies lose to films that are more prosthetically-focused
• There should be five nominees like every other category since literally every live-action film employs makeup and hair. Not every film requires visual effects or original songs or even original scores and those categories all have 5 nominees.

The Nominees:

Foxcatcher - Bill Corso & Dennis Liddiard
Grand Budapest Hotel - Frances Hannon & Mark Coulier
Guardians of the Galaxy - Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou & David White

Corso and Coulier previously won Oscars (for Lemony Snicket and The Iron Lady respectively)  but the other four nominated artists are Oscarless. All three nominated films have a lot going for them but Foxcatcher would be a longshot since the recreation of existing people's looks via wig, hair and prosthetic enhancements generally has to settle for a nomination. But will they go with Guardians or Grand Budapest? It's tough to say. Guardians is well-loved -- I even talked to a voter who had it at #1 on his Best Picture ballot during the nomination round -- and very showy what with its rainbow of skin colors (blue, green, red you name it) and sci-fi hairdos and scarring. It wouldn't surprise me to see it win. But Grand Budapest Hotel has just about everything they love in this category: old age prosthetics, elaborate hair, memorable hideousness. And who can forget Tilda Swinton's glaucoma-plagued eyes, silver wigs, and old lady liver spots?

Will Win: Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: Guardians of the Galaxy
Should Win: Grand Budapest Hotel 

My ballot for this category (Hint: I'm thinking of renaming it "The Tilda Swinton Styling" Award)

Saturday
Jan102015

Meet the Contenders: David Oyelowo "Selma"

Abstew continues his weekly look at acting contenders as their films open...

David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma
Best Actor

Born: David Oyetokunbo Oyelowo was born 1 April, 1976 in Oxford, England

The Role: Filmmakers have been having a dream of bring a film about civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. to the big screen for years now. And this particular story, not a traditional cradle to tomb biopic of the man, but focusing on the Voting Rights marches in Selma, Alabama in 1965, has been in development since 2007 when British screenwriter Paul Webb completed his script. Various directors had been attached at one point and it was almost made in 2010 by Lee Daniels, who dropped the project due to lack of funding and to make The Butler instead. It finally comes to us from writer/director Ava DuVernay, who could make history by becoming the first African-American female director nominated for a Best Director Oscar.

British actor David Oyelowo had been attached to play Dr. King when Daniels was on board to direct (the two had previously worked together on The Paperboy and again in The Butler). And it was Oyelowo who suggested DuVernay to the producers after they worked together on her 2012 film, Middle of Nowhere. Oyelowo has stated that when he read the script back in 2007, that God told him he would play the part. [more...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan082015

Interview: Chadwick Boseman Gets On Up to a Big Movie Career

With the Get On Up DVD just out this week, let's take a look at the fast rise of Chadwick Boseman. He'd already headlined one surprise hit (42) when he delivered his first huge performance as Godfather of Soul James Brown. Critics casually and regularly mentioned "Oscar" in their reviews but the precursor awards didn't bite (the Golden Globes forcing that film into Drama when films of its kind usually compete in Musical surely didn't help). But individual honors aside, there's no arguing that Boseman is at the beginning of a big career.

When I sat down with him last year (though less long ago than that sounds) he was unusually cagey about future career plans. Chalked it up to caution, I did, at the time. But cut to a very short time after the interview: News broke that he'd spend at least a couple of years in a form fitting black lycra (?) costume as T'Challa, The Black Panther (2017). That surely accounts for some of the shifting in his seat and long pauses when I grilled him about his future plans and what kinds of roles he's looking to play post-Brown over coffee. He must've already known and been sworn to secrecy since these multi-year multi-film deals don't happen overnight.

Here are highlights from our conversation about both his James Brown work, his relationship with those flamboyant costumes and Alex Proyas' forthcoming Gods of Egypt (2016) which arrives before he dons the T'Challa costume. 

NATHANIEL R: Let’s start with something crazy. Could you do the splits before Get On Up? [more...]

Click to read more ...

Monday
Dec292014

Interview: James Marsh on (True) Storytelling from "Man on Wire" to "The Theory of Everything"

It's rare for acclaimed documentarians to make a dramatically successful leap into narrative features but with The Theory of Everything, a marital drama about Stephen and Jane Hawking, the 51 year old British filmmaker James Marsh (of Man on Wire and Project Nim fame) is finally doing just that. Man on Wire was one of the most successful documentaries of the past decade but his new affecting biopic, which is actually Marsh's fourth narrative feature, is already his most successful film having racked up an impressive $26 million and counting worldwide to date.

It's also been collecting plentiful Oscar buzz.  The Film Experience had a chance to chart with this articulate thoughtful Oscar winner so we jumped right in. Here's our conversation:

Nathaniel R: Given your filmography, both documentaries and features, The Theory of Everything is...

JAMES MARSH: Go ahead. You can say it.

Nathaniel R: Ha. Well, it's a much different direction for you. It's romantic drama and it's also old school biography. What prompted your interest?

JAMES MARSH: You’re right in terms of its scale for sure and perhaps its emotional spectrum. But it’s a true story and that’s my background in films I’ve done. It’s a story of a marriage as much as a biopic. That felt like an interesting challenge: to try and examine a relationship that evolves and changes over time given all the impediments and unusual and very difficult circumstances. It felt also that I could go somewhere that a documentary could not go in terms of the intimacy of the relationship. 

You're right that it's different but it does have curious connections with Man on Wire. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Dec272014

Interview: Timothy Spall on "Mr. Turner" and Fathers and Sons

Mr Turner, Mike Leigh's long gestating dream project about the romantic painter J.M.W. Turner recently hit theaters in limited release but it's buzz began back in the summer when Timothy Spall took home the Best Actor prize at Cannes for his grunted commitment to this fusion of great artist and unsavory man. Last month I had the opportunity to sit down with the Mike Leigh favorite (this is their fifth big-screen collaboration). It'd be impossible to list all the ways in which the man and role are different but the physical strikes you first. Spall has slimmed down considerably since playing what he calls this "toby jug of a man." 

The generous friendly actor, a thousand times more articulate than his current character, talked about the hazards of working with Mike Leigh, and beautiful fathers and son relationships both on screen and off. 

Nathaniel R: I’ve talked to a few actors who’ve worked with Mike Leigh. You always hear about the months of prep work and not knowing how large your role will be. You're the lead this time but is it frustrating to do the work and then just have a small part? 

TIMOTHY SPALL: I think it is. I’ve been in situations where other actors have worked a long long time and because of the way the film is structured they’ve ended up working for three months for one scene. That’s just the way it goes. It is a hazard when you work with Mike Leigh and he doesn’t hide that fact. In all the 33 years that I’ve worked with him, he’s never guaranteed I’d be the center of the piece

Well this one you had a good idea...

Unless he was shooting another film secretly in the evening about Constable.

Or a film about the Academy.

Or about Tina Turner.

Kathleen Turner

One of the Turners. [Laughs]

Click to read more ...

Monday
Nov242014

Lukewarm Off The Presses: Hugh & Amy's Musicals, Diana's Director, Lee's Horror, & Eddie's Operation

Five stories we didn't share in all the hulaballoo of our trip to Los Angeles, the recovery week's madness and now our Thanksgiving prep. Can't let these stories go unremarked upon since many of them are related to this year's Oscar race as well as 2015 and possibly 2016. Let's get ahead of ourselves! 

Barnum by way of Jackson / Amy to play Janis

1. Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum
When I was coming out of Into the Woods the other day and coming out of The Last Five Years back in Toronto, I was wracked with indecision about how I felt. My cinephile self was mounting a civil war with my inner musical theater geek who is deeply devoted to both shows. The former musical is among my top 3 favorite Sondheim shows (the others being Company & Follies) and the latter is literally my favorite original musical of the 21st century to date. The solution to this inner turmoil is surely ORIGINAL SCREEN MUSICALS. We haven't had one since Dancer in the Dark, right? So I'm absolutely excited to see Hugh Jackman belt out whatever tunes they're writing for him as P.T. Barnum in a new musical biopic about the circus pioneer called The Greatest Showman on Earth. Having seen Jackman absolutely slay audiences on Broadway as another flamboyant showman (Peter Allen in "The Boy from Oz"), this could be his Oscar ticket if the movie is good. The songs are by a composing duo you know from "Smash" but before you get too excited it's not from the composers behind the fictional musical "Bombshell," damnit!, but the composers behind the fictional musical "Hit List" which wasn't half as good. (Sigh)

Bette Midler as Janis Joplin (sort of) in The Rose (1979)2. Amy Adams as Janis Joplin
Should Adams be nominated (maybe) and lose (definitely) the Best Actress Oscar for Big Eyes this season she will join the "Biggest Actress Loser Club" that is currently a three-person tea party with Thelma Ritter, Glenn Close, Deborah Kerr. Fine company, don't you think? The solution is UNDOUBTEDLY a Janis Joplin biopic since Amy Adams has a great singing voice, considerable awards momentum, and is still young enough to be interesting to Oscar... for at least another few years. We're far enough away from Bette Midler's wildly acclaimed take on that iconic musician (by another name) in The Rose (1979) that the earlier Oscar run won't be an issue either. [More after the jump...]

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