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Entries in Oscars (12) (288)


Ryan Murphy's "Normal Heart"

Looks like it'll be television giant Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Glee) in the directing chair for the first film version of Larry Kramer's AIDS drama The Normal Heart. That righteously angry 80s play, which has long flummoxed would be adapters (most famously Barbra Streisand), was all the rage on Broadway this past season during its revival (I was less impressed than most but boy did the Tonys love it).

According to Playbill Murphy is planning on going with Mark Ruffalo in the lead role of Ned Weeks and wants his Eat Pray Love diva Julia Roberts in the awards-magnet supporting part of "Doctor Death". That part won Ellen Barkin the Tony and throat pains (we're guessing. It's very shouty!) but apparently not enough renewed career heat to get her an offer for the film version. Between this role and "Barbara" the eldest daughter in August: Osage County Julia seems to cornered the market on famously angry/exhausted stage-to-screen female roles. 

But before we scream "Oscars all around in February 2013!", it's wise to remember (always) that that stage-to-screen teleportation magic is an eternally difficult trick to master. Murphy is enjoying great success with Glee but both of his films thus far, Eat Pray Love (2010) or Running With Scissors (2006), have had mixed results critically and at the box office. One of the dangers of success is that artists get spread very thin and that could obviously be a problem here with Glee still going strong despite its own occasional  "spread to thin" feel.

on the set of Eat Pray Love

But we wish him good luck. He was once the president of a Meryl Streep fan club ferchrissakes. And though I couldn't find the copy that interview that Playbill is quoting he supposedly recently expressed regret that he had to turn down writing the Annie remake meant for Willow Smith, saying: 

So now she's got Emma Thompson who is 50 million times better than me. LOVE HER.

So, see? Murphy really loves actresses and musicals. The Film Experience officially has no choice but to root for him. 


Hey, it's Ellen Page. What About "Freeheld"?

Is Zimbio trying to tell us something with that headline? I don't know why the actresses are hanging out in Montreal together but it's adorbs that they have matching pants and shoes. Clea's mostly been doing TV guest spots lately (The Event, CSI: Miami). Meanwhile Ellen Page heads off to Rome soon to join the huge ensemble of Woody Allen's Bop DeCameron (2012). 

But hey... FREEHELD. That previously announced movie popped right into my head.

Unfortunately there's been very little word on what's happening with Ellen's most-promising sounding future film. Freeheld would be the story of New Jersey mechanic Stacie Andree's (Page) and her girlfriend Laurel Hester's (as yet uncast) legal battle to save pension benefits when Laurel was diagnosed with a terminal illness. It sounds like such a promising direction for Ellen (Oscar nom #2?) who should challenge herself as an actress real soon; It's not like expository roles in green screen epics are pushing her gift.

Freeheld (2007), Best Documentary Short WinnerThe documentary short Freeheld, which first told this story, won an Oscar three years ago. And given the hot topic of gay marriage (just passed in New York but New Jersey's Republican governor vows to fight against it.) the time seems ripe for more social dramas that passionately deal with contemporary fights. I don't know about you but I firmly believe that the reason the whole subgenre of films dealing with social issues, civil rights, and prejudice have such a middlebrow rep and always feel safe and weaksauce is because, generally speaking, they set them so far back in the past that they're all cushioned from the world as we know it. Hollywood needs to deliver more Do The Right Things and less Driving Miss Daisys, is the point even though that reference itself is itself cushioned with rosy nostalgia. Oops!

The starry gay dramas that do get made (Milk, Brokeback Mountain) are also set in the past. Not that we don't need the reminders but contemporary balance would be great. Catherine Hardwicke (Red Riding Hood) was originally attached to Freeheld but it doesn't have to be her. Actually, and though it pains me to say this since I was a huge fan of her debut thirteen (2003), it might be better if it wasn't her. Somebody needs to is the point. 


10 Best Picture Nominees... OR LESS

Just when we were getting acclimated to the new system of ten best picture nominees, Oscar is changing up their rules again. Deadline reports that after carefully studying their voting data, the Academy's governing board has decided that that Ten Best Picture Nominees thing was perhaps a little too generous. 'Shouldn't there be some threshhold of passion for a film to win that coveted "best picture" title' they asked themselves.

Their answer was "yes".

How much passion will be required exactly? The magic number is 5%. In short, a film will have to win at least 5% of #1 votes in the nomination balloting in order to join the Best Picture Lineup. There'll be no less than 5 Best Picture nominees in any given year and no more than 10. So one could say they're splitting the difference between the old system and the new.

Best Thing About This Change
It'll be quite unpredictable. We won't know until Oscar nomination morning how many "Best Pictures" we're getting. Otherwise I can't see an upside. We'll still get those pictures that we scratch our heads over "how did that get in there?! That doesn't belong!" -- don't think for a moment, for instance, that you can wipe out choices like The Blind Side. After all, we had those kind of decisions in the days of five nominees. Bad taste is indestructable!

The ZZZ Thing About This Change
I suspect other pundits will disagree but I don't see how this change means anything at all in terms of precursor madness. Not all precursor awards -- those would be tastemakers that proceed AMPAS's 'final say' -- are bound and determined to predict the Oscars but they'll stick with 10 nominees anyway as it gives them more wiggle room in the mirroring.

The Worst Thing About This Change
If you value visual and numerical symmetry as I do -- and boy do I -- you'll hate that you won't be able to line up various years in neat chart formats or say things like "2013's lineup is so interesting but nothing beats 2007. No, no, let us not speak of 1999!" There won't be any way to directly compare year-to-year anymore. (How will we even structure our prediction charts?) There's something quite beautiful about tradition in mythic institutions like Oscar. The chronologies will line up nevermore. Won't it also be more of a slap in the face for the snubs? "Sorry there were only 5 nominees this year but the rest of you who were 'in the hunt'. Turns out they only told you they loved you in the heat of the moment. They didn't."

Here's the part I found most intriguing* about the decision...

“In studying the data, what stood out was that Academy members had regularly shown a strong admiration for more than five movies,” said Davis. “A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit. If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn’t feel an obligation to round out the number.”

If this system had been in effect from 2001 to 2008 (before the expansion to a slate of 10), there would have been years that yielded 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 nominees.

*And by intriguing I mean CRAZY-MAKING. Does this mean none of those years would have seen 10 nominees? Will ten films be a once a decade thing? [Tangent: This DOES mean that they keep all the voting data. How is it that this never leaks? Price Waterhouse must be guarded by Heimdall or suspended in a heavily guarded plastic prison like Magneto.]

You know what else this means: LISTS, Lots of lists! We'll look at 2001 through 2008 soon but we have to save some chi for a later post, can't blow it all at once on this announcement.  For now, let's just discuss this change and wonder which films would've been axed from the top ten by way of not getting enough #1 placements.

Here's my guesswork...

2010 - 8 nominees

I realize I'm stubborn about The Kids Are All Right... I enjoy being stubborn. But there was a time, if we're being honest with yourselves, that people thought it would be one of the five even if there were only five. My guess is that 127 Hours just barely slipped in and that Winter's Bone, despite being very well regarded was lacking in #1 votes. Who knows... But there did seem to be a broad range of support for many features last year so perhaps only The Boy And His Rock would've been eliminated.

2009 - 7 nominees

Though I was personally horrified at The Blind Side's inclusion in 2009 I do not think it was in 10th place. Oscar is so much more mainstream than the media likes to pretend and given the massive embrace of that movie from the general populace, there are few sound reasons to think AMPAS voters weren't also squeezing it, with formulaic tears streaming down their faces. District 9... well, I'm still surprised it got in given Oscar's history of shunning sci-fi. Perhaps most controversially, I'm guessing Pixar would've had to wait until Toy Story 3 to get the "only the second animated picture nominated for Best Picture" honor.

What'cha think of the rule change?

P.S. In other rule changes, the number of Animated Features nominated will be more flexible too. Previously it was 3 or 5. Now it'll be 2 to 5 depending on the number of films released that are eligible and number of votes those films received. The documentary category's eligibility will now be in sync with the calendar year like most categories.


Animation in 2011/12. Oscar Predix and "Brave"

Will 2011 go down in history as the year when animation's hot streak finally cooled? Oh sure, bix box office awaits a great number of the toons arriving this year but box office isn't everything. You can be a huge hit and impress virtually no one (just look through some past box office charts and think about the way people talk about some of those "blockbusters") since audiences have a Pavlovian response to certain genres in certain decades with certain ubiquitous forms of advertising: Must Buy Ticket.

Will we see a 2006 rematch in Animated Feature?

It's hard to figure which animated films will be nominated for Best Animated Feature come January since half of the releases (literally by my count) are sequels. Sequels are judged differently than original fare. Half of our response (at the very least) is in the way the new film dialogues with the old. Does it add to the conversation, merely parrot it, deepen it, spoil it, change it? Once studio creatives get too self-referential or repetitive they can turn into a soulless production line workers and whole genres can become museum pieces rather than evolving vivid living things. The documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, which I highly recommend to animation lovers, charts this very problem in regards to Disney. It documents the dwindling audience love and studio creativity in the 1980s through to its spectacular rebirth in the early 90s. It's a good film to see to remind ourselves that we can only borrow heat from past glories for so long before things gets chilly.

Click here for  Oscar charts / Animated Feature predictions

Here's a potentially happy visual extro that has nothing to do with this year's Oscars. Here are three concept drawings from Pixar's Summer 2012 feature BRAVE.

Since the delightfully cute-looking Newt was cancelled it's Pixar's only original film in the pipeline with sequels to Cars (this year) and Monster's Inc (called Monsters University in late 2012) bookending it. Brave (formerly titled The Bear and the Bow) features their very first lead heroine "Merida" (voiced by Kelly MacDonald), and was at one point going to be Pixar's first movie directed by a woman and then it wasn't and now it's (co)directed by her. It's also NOT a sequel. Let's hope it's great so that 50% of the population (the ones with vaginas) don't get blamed for spoiling Pixar's unbroken winning streak*.

*If you ask me this "ALWAYS PERFECT" business is a myth, a huge pitcher of Kool-Aid we all drank. It would be much healthier to let go of it. Though it made a billion dollars Cars (2006) is NOT a good movie. People are always (still) making excuses for it like "I didn't love it but..." Just stop making excuses. Accept that they've already stumbled once and we won't be pressuring them with this "Perfect!" myth. And we won't be so heartbroken when they start churning out a gazillion sequels. And they won't be so nervous about mixing up the formulas a bit or scared into only making sequels.



Clint Eastwood & Beyoncé. A Match Made In...

This might just be the strangest thing you read all week.

Clint Eastwood, currently working on FBI biopic J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover and Armie Hammer as his lover and star employee, will be chasing that unlikely project with... wait for it...

A STAR IS BORN with Beyoncé. According to Deadline it's a go and they may even start shooting the third musical version of this story before the end of the year. There are so many things one might say to this news including.


or perhaps

"the earth is doomed" which is what I tweeted.

Maybe "Streisand is gonna be pissed" which is what I went with for my upcoming Towleroad column.

Stars Are Born in the 30s (Gaynor) the 50s (Garland) and 70s (Streisand)

I've never understood why anyone would want to remake A Star is Born (including Babs in the 70s), given that Judy Garland's 1954 performance is so unassailably ginormous and mythical and awesome and Oscar winning (damnit!). But mostly, I'm scratching my head about conservative manly "get off my lawn" Clint Eastwood doing two gay-appeal projects back to back. First he's training his Oscarbait eyes on a closeted cross-dresser and then he's turning klieg lights on an actual show queen?

Finally, aside from Eastwood's "what the hell will this be like?" involvement it feels rather redundant and not just because we've already had three film versions. Won't watching Beyoncé do A Star is Born be like watching a two hour extended remix of "Listen" from Dreamgirls.

That's the whole emotional arc and story right there.



Mama's Getting Hot: Babs for Gypsy?

Fockin' BarbraBy now, should you have a known predilection for movie musicals or Barbra Streisand as musical comedienne (we endorse both predilections, though we can do without Babs otherwise), someone has undoubtedly forwarded you something saying along the lines of "OMFG. BABS. GYPSY. SQUEEE (and/or) EWWW."

According to Playbill, she is in talks to star in a new film version about the ur stage mother "Mama Rose". Other reports have the diva, currently atop the box office charts in her Meet the Fockers role, directing and producing as well. That Babs, always multi-tasking. We heartily approve of Babs returning to musical comedy, her true yet abandoned once-in-a-century gift, and we get that she'd want to scale the musical Mt Everest of "Mama Rose". Many divas have tried their hand at the enormous role. Streisand, at 68 years of age, would definitely be the oldest filmed Mama Rose. Which isn't a big deal since you do need a BIG performer except that the musical is about a mother's tempestuous relationships with her young children who she carts around on the vaudeville circuit as child and then teen performers until the elder kicks free of Mama (and clothing) to become the famous stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.

Well, maybe she'll pull it off. She did famously sell herself as "Second Hand Rose" already.

The major Mama Roses to date (Gypsy never stays away for long):

  • Patti Lupone (2008 Broadway revival, Tony Award)
  • Bernadette Peters (2003 Broadway revival, Tony nomination)
  • Bette Midler (1993 TV movie, Emmy nomination, Globe winner)
  • Tyne Daly (1989 Broadway revival, Tony Award)
  • Angela Lansbury (1975 Broadway revival, Tony Award)
  • Rosalind Russell (1962 Film, Globe winner -- snubbed by Oscar)
  • Ethel Merman (1959 Original Broadway musical, Tony nomination)

Which was your favorite? (I've only see Russell, Midler and Peters and, despite her divisive reviews, Bernadette Peters was my favorite. How about them eggrolls?)

(Remember when Hugh Jackman had super long hair? Hee.)

Hey you know what?

Forget Babs. Wasn't Sigourney Weaver supposed to star in a non-musical version sequel of sorts called G String Mother? That one was about Mama Rose's daughter "Gypsy Rose Lee" in her later years after retiring from stripping. Maybe that project got cancelled? It no longer has an IMDb page. Sadness. That sounded interesting.

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