Entries in Holidays (116)
This review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad. It is reprinted here with in the Director's Cut version. i.e. it's longer this time...
When Magic Mike opened three years ago it was something of a risky proposition. Male stars exploiting their bodies for a young male star’s dream project loosely based on his own stripping career which he felt no shame about? Who would have guessed? Cut to three years later: Magic Mike and Friends (minus The Kid and Dallas “alright alright alright”) have returned to movie theaters with much teasing and blockbuster fanfare to a relatively new pop cultural context they helped create: male objectification is increasingly the norm. Just ask Chris Pratt, the ascendant superstar of the moment (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) who has acknowledged that his new body was key to his ascendance and that he’s all for it… the objectification.
This wondrous new world of happily exposed man-flesh makes Magic Mike XXL feel curiously demure. Usually sequels go for more-more-more but XXL (the title is a misnomer) downsizes even as the stages get larger. There’s less plot since it’s essentially a road trip movie but most curiously there’s much less nudity even if the women this time around seem a lot more eager to see it.
This withholding is smart and funny at the beginning of the film in a sensational opening dance number starring Mike alone in his workroom. [More...]
Happy annual Star Wars day. Since Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (just 228 days away) will make this whole year a perpetual Star Wars Day elsewhere on the net, we'll keep this brief. Here are four unqualified positive feelings about the franchise.
- Nathaniel hearts Leia, Luke and Han (in roughly that order) as much as anyone & forever.
- Jabba the Hutt, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, and even Darth Maul are superb villains. Deeply memorable villains are incredibly important to adventure genres such as space fantasy, action, sci-fi, superheroes, etcetera and it's one thing nearly every franchise could learn from this one.
- The Empire Strikes Back is awesome.
- Where would the world of sound design be without Ben Burtt? The world has never forgotten Darth Vader's breath, Chewie's throaty protestations, and R2-D2's beep bop boop beeping and never shall. What a great call Oscar made in 1977 to give him a special achievement Oscar.
Now you say four nice things about Star Wars in the comments.
Tim here. A good cinephile would be able to look around the world and think about the whole range of possible movies in all their splendid variety. Me, I haven't been able to stop thinking about Star Wars ever since the new Episode VII trailer dropped yesterday. That's the poisonous fever bog of nostalgia for you.
So, as long as I'm not going to get my head right anyway, how about we take a little wander through the corridors of Star Wars and animation? Because, golly, talk about being gripped by a dubious affection for a brand name...
At some point, people subjected themselves to all of these things just to get a little tiny bit more of a Star Wars fix. And even if The Force Awakens can't live up to the awesome pileup of top-shelf fanservice in that trailer, there's not any chance in hell that it can be as bad as some of these:
The Star Wars Holiday Special (1979)
Two and a half years after the original film redefined what blockbuster box office could look like, the very first expansion of the universe came in the form of this legendarily wretched variety show that starts with ten damn minutes of people in terrible shaggy suits barking at each other in unsubtitled Wookiee-ese. After which it proceeds to get worse. The solitary highlight, and that's almost solely because of the lowlights surrounding it on all sides, is a short animated sequence by Nelvana in which Luke, Han Solo, and Chewbacca fall for the most transparent con job in the universe and future fan-favorite Boba Fett is introduced. He rides a dinosaur. [More...]
I normally publish this list on Luise Rainer's birthday but having lost her just as 2014 ended after a year already marked by the loss of several screen giants including Mickey Rooney, Peter O'Toole and Joan Fontaine, we needed some positivity to kick off the new calendar!
This semi-annual list of living Oscar-vets was never intended to be a morbid countdown list as a stray commenter or three has complained. Not at all! It's a way for us to honor people while they're still conscious of our appreciation for their indelible contributions to our favorite artform. Your assignment: pick six players here and during the year, rent a key film from each so that they can receive your telepathic waves of appreciation in 2015! (That's only 1 film every other month. You can do it!)
So our very best wishes of good health and happiness to the following actors, directors and craftsmen of all kinds in this new year...
100 OLDEST LIVING OSCAR NOMINEES/WINNERS
after the jump
01 Douglas Slocombe (2/10/13)
Imagine lighting that boulder rolling opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark or the snake pit with torches! This nearly 102 year-old was up to the challenge. He also received nominations for Julia (1977) and Travels With My Aunt (1972). Other key works: The Lion in Winter (1968), The Great Gatsby (1974) and Rollerball (1975)
02 Elmo Williams (4/30/13)
This centenarian won his golden statue for editing High Noon (1952) one of the earliest movies (though not the earliest) to be told in "real time." He was later nominated for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).
03 Olivia de Havilland (7/1/1916)
The oldest enduring movie star on this list - she turns 99 this year - won Best Actress twice by the time she was 33 for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949). The Snake Pit (1948) and Hold Back the Dawn (1941) also won her nominations. Olivia's legend was cemented years earlier, though, with her first nomination as the kind-hearted "Melanie" in the immortal Gone With the Wind (1939). Only a few living actors with speaking roles from that historic film are still with us. Other Key Works: Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), My Cousin Rachel (1952), and Light in the Piazza (1962). More on Olivia.
97 more greats after the jump
Alas I have no Oscar Trivia involving the number 55 to parcel out on this occassion but it's an important day to mark nonetheless. Oscar ballots fly out to the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences today (Monday, December 29th) so consider this coming week the buzz freeze. Whatever's happening now is the last minute push.
Many voters have already made up their minds of course but it's up to the campaigns to keep the names and titles of those in the hunt ever present so they don't slip the mind when it comes time to fill out those ballots. This weekend's box office holiday festivities brought coveted attention to Into the Woods and Unbroken (both probably on the Best Picture bubble) and to a lesser degree to Selma (which feels like a sure thing despite its late start) and American Sniper. But other earlier releases have already made their cases. Only A Most Violent Year (with a hugely entertaining performance by Jessica Chastain) and the foreign film hopeful Leviathan have yet to open and are risking New Year's Eve releases.
Though there's a place for advocacy in film-blogging we do enough of it here that we shouldn't press our luck by doing it again today. We only ask that any AMPAS member who has stumbled upon this message watch three more screeners before returning their ballots. Carve out six more hours, you can do it. Especially if you're not quite satisfied with your ballot.
And try this nifty trick: Glance over your choices for your branch category and for Best Picture. Are any of the names or titles you've scribbed down simply from power of suggestion - because you've heard it over and over again? If you're looking at the name and you don't feel any passion, chuck it. Vote your heart. Or if you're stumped check out the Oscar charts and consider a longer shot that you totally loved. The only way those triumphs ever get nominated is if the passion vote turns out. It's just like a real election in that way.
I love what James Marsh, the director of The Theory of Everything told me about his ballot (read the interview)
I take it quite seriously. I do indeed evaluate. You can separate technical virtuosity in a film that doesn’t necessarily cohere for you as a movie.
It’s both a pleasure and a duty that should be done carefully and properly. It’s an honor to be an Academy member. And should be one where you meet your responsibilities and not in a cavalier way.
P.S. If you're not lucky enough to have a ballot, let's play the game that the gurus of gold just played (they stumped for Nightcrawler en masse) and suggest three final screeners that each voter should watch before returning their ballot. Go!