Oscar History

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Viola's Speech

"If she'd said "We're a profession that celebrates what it means to live a life" instead of "the only profession" it would have been a truer, less self-aggrandizing statement. But what she said about exhuming stories from those who are dead - ordinary lives that should be illuminated on film - was powerful and is worth remembering" - Hustler


Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman)
Krystof Deak (Sing)
Robert Legato (The Jungle Book)
Rich Moore (Zootopia) 

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Entries in TV at the Movies (33)


Review: 21 Jump Street (The Movie)

This review was originally published in my column at Towleroad

"High concept" was the hot showbiz term of the 1980s. The thinking went that if you couldn't describe your movie/tv show in one sentence, it wouldn't sell. That popular marketing wisdom stuck and High Concept itself shrank. First it devolved into This meets That, each new pitch being a mashup of preexisting hits. Today instead of one sentence pitches or previous hit fusions most new potential blockbusters are required to rely on a simple colon. It works like so… "Title of That Thing You Already Know: The Movie!"

The 1987 cast of "21 Jump Street"

This has led to all sorts of unfortunate movies based on books, games, plays and tv shows (and vice versa) many of them big hits. The danger is obvious. When you don't even have to try to make your entertainment memorable because the audience brings half the affection with them, creative laziness can often follow. But every once in awhile the audience gets lucky and Title of That Thing You Already Know: The Movie is surprisingly fun on its own terms.

Chan & Jonah in High School21 Jump Street began its life as a high concept television series...

Young-looking cops go back to high school… undercover!"

And now it's a 21 JUMP STREET: THE MOVIE (the last half of that title is silent/implied) The twist is that rather than the earnest though light-hearted procedural drama it was in its infancy when it introduced us to Johnny Depp, it's now a full fledged buddy comedy starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Continued after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Smash: "The Callback" and "Enter Joe DiMaggio"

"Let's make ourselves a Marilyn"Since so many of you seemed to be watching Smash judging on response to the pilot episode, and since its a fictional show about a possibly real musical about a very real departed movie star, I thought I'd write it up weekly. But Oscar is a needy lover and hogged all my time. Now there are so many episodes to discuss! To get caught up we'll do two doubles, so here's the first of them. 

1.2 "The Callback" 
In the second episode, we were both thrilled and shocked to find that they didn't drag out the "who will they cast as Marilyn Monroe?" drama for weeks on end. Though obviously they could and will revisit it since we're a long way from opening night. Both girls, Ivy (Megan Hilty) and Karen (Katharine McPhee) endured torturous waiting and callbacks while the power players made up their mind. Ivy it was. The best sign that the show is serious about being an actual show about the business of Broadway theater rather than a show about whatever the hell it feels like being about in any given scene (Glee... sigh) was that we actually see Julia and Tom (Debra Messing and Christian Borle) toiling away at work wondering about structure and characters and arguing about song order and even the process itself. You can't just write a musical by stringing songs together.  The worst sign for the freshman show is the insistence on Julia's adoption subplot. Isn't birthing a brand new musical enough parenting?

Jack: It's a big risk
Eileen: Nothing's Bigger Than Broadway!
Jack: I'm aware.  

Set List: Blondie's "Call Me" (McPhee), "Let Me Be Your Star" (McPhee/Hilty), "20th Century Fox Mambo (McPhee), Carrie Underwood's "Crazy Dreams" (Hilty)
Pop Culture and Movie References: vampire craze, Clash By Night, Monkey Business
Best Moment: Ivy practicing her Monroeisms "thank you ever so" 
Anjelica Awesomeness: Huston's condescension towards her ex's new blonde plaything "We've met" / "I don't think so" / [mocking her with squeaky bimbo voice] "I doooo"
Gay Gay Gay "Nothing's bigger than Broadway!" 
Curtain Call: Megan Hilty does a stunning cabaret rendition of "Crazy Dreams" to close the episode.

1.3 "Enter Joe DiMaggio"
In the third episode Karen gets invited to participate in the workshops as part of the chorus and she takes a trip home to Iowa for a babyshower. Things get more complicated when Michael (Will Chase), a rising actor, signs on as Joe DiMaggio and Tom's assistant Ellis starts feeling proprietary about the musical (his casual comment in the pilot sparked the whole thing) and steals Julia's notebook. The best thing about both of these developments is that they make Julia (Debra Messing) way more interesting as a character because she has such irrationally strong reactions to both, one being an ex-lover the other being someone she just bristles at instinctually. In fact, Messing really steps up in this episode making her own case for an Emmy run. (Julia is a surprisingly thorny and multi-faceted character by episode 3. Not at all what we were expecting after the pilot.) Emmys for everyone!

Megan Hilty as Ivy Lynn as Marilyn & Will Chase as Michael Swift asJoe DiMaggio

We're noone you've ever seen
Movie stars don't live anywhere here
Except on the local drive-in screen

Set List: Bruno Mars "Grenade" (Chase), Gretchen Wilson's "Red Neck Woman" (McPhee) "Mr and Mrs Smith" 
Pop Culture and Movie References: Gone With the Wind, The Seven Year Itch, My Fair Lady, Sinatra, Siegfried & Roy
Best Moment: Julia's intense jarring switch from painful confession to Tom to bitchy showdown with Ellis
Anjelica Awesomeness: Huston's Eileen Rand is really a marvel of a character creation. She has Huston's usual dragon lady severity but there are so many exquisite playful beats that the character feels unpredictable even when she's working a repetitive "bit" like throwing drinks in her ex-husband's face. Their dinner scene together is filled with weirdly flirtatious hostility, giving off the distinct impression that they once had great sex but always enjoyed pissing the other off. "You have exquisite taste. When you weren't cheating on me it was one of the things I really enjoyed about you." 
Curtain Call
: "Mr and Mrs Smith"... I'm more and more convinced that this needs to be an actual musical on Broadway. Can this series be about a different new musical every season and put it on Broadway directly afterwards? I mean... many new musicals don't have songs as uniformly strong as the ones this show is cranking out.

LATER THIS WEEK... we'll discuss "The Cost of Art" and tonight's episode "Let's Be Bad". If you're not watching, start. Good show. You can get caught up on Hulu or iTunes. 


TV @ The Movies: "Supernatural" ♥ Nicole Kidman?

Don't misunderstand . I don't actually watch Supernatural but you know how some nights you're bone-tired and whatever is on is what you end up half-watching. (I think my TV must have been on the CW due to Ringer). I always perk up when TV shows reference movies and wonder what possessed the writers. 

Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) discussing witches

In the episode the supernatural hunting brothers are investigating mysterious murders connected to this guy Don (played by James Marsters) and his wife (played by another Buffy alum Charisma Carpenter... so it's like Spike & Cordelia got married. Ewwww!)

Dean: So the scorned wife is into the dark stuff.
Sam: And Don's just in the dark.
Dean: Hmmm. it's kind of like Bewitched. You know Don is Darren and doesn't even know it. Lot of laughs 'till you cheat on your wife.

Sam: A Bewitched reference? Really?
Dean: [Lustfully] Dude. Nicole Kidman was in the remake. Redhead. Hellooooo.


This is the first time I've ever heard the BEWITCHED (2005) referenced in a positive way anywhere in my life !!! 


TV @ the Movies: "Hoosiers" vs. "The Notebook"

I know that MTV's Teen Wolf is based on an 80s movie but it's not set in the 1980s so what to make of the bizarre opening scene of its latest episode "The Tell" in which Jackson (Colton Haynes) and Lydia (Holland Roden) visit that nostalgia-inducing endangered species, The Video Store, and have the following  ½ "80s" argument... 

Jackson: "Hoosiers" is not only the best basketball movie ever it is the best sports movie ever made. 
Lydia: No.
Jackson: It's got Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper!
Lydia: No.
Jackson: Lydia, I swear to God you're going to like it.
Lydia: No.

[cut to: Jackson, defeated, inside the store]

Jackson: Can somebody help me find "The Notebook"? 

Haha. So, maybe this was intended it as a Men are from Mars / Women are from Venus argument but do today's teenagers (non film-fanatic variety... not you reading, obvs)  even know who Dennis Hopper and Gene Hackman are? It seems like this argument was between a 30something man and a teen girl. Or maybe Hoosiers mania still lives on in high school boys? I'm not a sports person or a high school boy so I cannot speak from authority.

Once inside the store, there are a ton of movies on view but none of them seem intentionally placed there for the camera. Lazy set dressers (kidding!). For instance, there's telltale signs of a dead body (a foot!) peaking out from behind the I Am Love row. But I highly doubt the director's were like "ooh, someone dies in that Tilda Swinton / Italian melodrama that won Best Pic at the Film Bitch Awards, so let's put the body there!".

This one on the other hand is 100% intentional.

Turns out there's an evil werewolf in the store and Jackson ends up hiding right next to a copy of Let The Right One In, the only movie with its own closeup. "The Tell" that it's intentional: It's out of sequence with the other movies sitting next to it, which begin with "S". Video stores may be on the verge of extinction but surely they still alphabetize.



TV @ The Movies: Parks and Recreation

Summer is a strange time at Chez Nathaniel. Though I'm a film guy, summer movie season isn't really even close to my favorite movie time. And though I'm not totally a TV guy, I miss my shows (No Mad Men this summer is going to be the strangest).

Fr'instance, I'm already missing Parks & Recreation since the fantastic two part Season Finale aired a week back.

The Haverford Charm Ray! wah-wah-wah

You know I LOL'ed at this moment when Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) decides to use the "Haverford Charm Ray" on an old lady who works on the dread 4th Floor. How to do it? Flatter her with screen goddess comparisons.

He wants this old lady to do his work for him. Time to butter her up.

Click to read more ...


TV at the Movies: "They're All Going to Laugh at You!"

Shall we have a small screen comment diversion? There are two things in particular that are urging this post on. One: Gwyneth Paltrow as "Holly Holiday" wisecracking sexed up substitute teacher on Glee and Raja's increasingly commendable and now movie-spoofing creativity on RuPaul's Drag Race.

Let's take Raja first. Rita Rudner, who was the guest judge and comedy coach for this week's challenge (developing a comedy routine), was worried that people wouldn't have seen Carrie (1976) "I haven't seen it in 40 years" and therefore wouldn't get Raja's references. Oh Rita; the gays have seen Carrie! It's maybe not as obsessively worshipped as Baby Jane but it's up there. Raja came out wearing this.

Raja as Carrie, Raja as Herself

They're all going to laugh at you! (On purpose.)

I don't want to stress how much I love Raja and did long before he started referencing great movies like Heathers and Carrie verbally or with inspired visual gags. Basically when I love a contestant on any show they are doomed to come in second (or less) to someone hugely inferior. (I knew this was coming last season when Raven, who I was already crushing hard on, referenced Michelle Pfeiffer of all people. I was done!) I have the same weird mutant power to curse great actresses with my fandom, my love being the anti-Oscar. Do you have this power? Maybe it's our combined love that curses them? I'd prefer to share blame -- please, take some of it. Tell me someone you've cursed by loving them.  Only a lucky few escape this particular curse  -- Kidman, Winslet -- and then usually only by denying someone else that I'd rather call an Oscar winner! I'm sorry I/we did this to you Bening, Pfeiffer, Close, Turner, Moore, etcetera!

Speaking of Oscar winners, Gwyneth Paltrow revived some fan love when she absolutely killed in her guest spot on Glee months ago as the Lindsay Lohan mocking, Cee Lo singing, substitute Spanish teacher. Last night she was back to reprise the role, this time offering up some sex ed. Her first scene involving a cucumber and a condom was quite hilarious but she peaked early. The rest of the episode was an uncomfortable preachy weirdly discombobulated mess. Just like every other episode.

Let us fantasize about having so many musical-fix options available on TV and at the movies that we need have no great love for it. Yet we do. Gwyneth's voice is emotionally expressive and can flip from exuberant to sad and is really quite beautiful so the internet nastiness about her possible new record deal is just the typical hatesnark that ever plagues the great Web. If you can listen to her cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide", or rather her cover of the Dixie Chicks cover of that song,  and think that she doesn't have musical chops, you should probably see an Otologist. Salon thinks Gwynnie's character, or at least what she's emblematic of, is ruining Glee. I get the argument but it's really hard to single out one troublesome element since Glee is quite obviously, emphatically and even proudly the Worst "Best" show on television.

To borrow from RuPaul herself, "Can I get an 'amen'"?

Or a second opinion?


TCM's 31 Days of Oscar *CONTEST*

March is Reader Appreciation Month!

Have any of you been catching up on past Oscar nominees during Turner Classic Movie's annual marathon of Oscar nominated films? They've been doing it for years. The thing we love most about it now that Oscar has left March for February is that it just bleeds over into March to make up for February's abbreviated obstinance. The festival ends Friday in the early AM but TCM is always showing movies and they pack so many in that we still have 15 Oscar nominated movies to look forward to in this particular program. It's kind of a godsend if you have the flu like me. I might just lay on the couch and watch all of them. I'm watching East of Eden (which JA just wrote about) as I type this.

31 days, oscar, tcm31 days, oscar, tcm31 days, oscar, tcm


For you actressexuals out there, the schedule tomorrow features three major screen divas: Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were (1973) one of the greatest romantic dramas Hollywood ever made; Bette Davis in the Hollywood drama The Star (1952); and Maggie Smith in the Neil Simon comedy California Suite (1978). Three films that Nick, Mike and I have discussed in the Best Picture From the Outside In series are also featured tomorrow: Grand Hotel, The Broadway Melody and Mutiny on the Bounty.

So that's it. Once again please visit TCM, it's a great station for movie lovers like us.

Last year when we held this contest Sam in Texas won a 5 DVD pack from TCM of my choosing which were: Double Indemnity (1944), A Star is Born (1954), The Umbrellas of Cherbourgh (1964), The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) and They Shoot Horses Don't They (1969). I got a note from Sam when he received them so I know he enjoyed.  This year, we'll have TWO winners of 5 DVD packs. TCM handles this contest so it's only open to readers in the U.S. and Canada (sorry international readers. You know I usually include you.)


  1. Send an email to Nathaniel with "TCM CONTEST" in the subject line by [CLOSED]
  2. Include your name and shipping address.
  3. List the 5 DVDs from the following 31 you'd like if you win: Citizen Kane, Easy Rider, A Streetcar Named Desire, Funny Girl, Gandhi, Birdman of Alcatraz, South Pacific, Glory, The Battle of Algiers, Annie Get Your Gun, The Graduate, Gone With The Wind, Miracle on 34th Street, Casablanca, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Lawrence of Arabia, American Beauty, Network, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Teh Best Years of Our Lives, Amadeus, Sahara, Doctor Zhivago, On the Waterfront, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Annie Hall, Arthur, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Around the World in 80 Days and North By Northwest.
  4. Finally click around on TCM's schedule for March 5th-7th and tell me... which of those movie(s) you'd most like to see written about here on The Film Experience and why -- you don't even have to have seen it. Maybe it's a type of film or a time frame or an actor. It doesn't matter. I'll DVR either the most convincing argument made or the movie that shows up on the most entries and I'll write it up next week.

You must have all 4 of those bullet points to win. The two winners will be chosen at random and announced on Sunday March 6th.


Dark Shadows Slowly Moving Our Way

A big screen adaptation of television's cult oddity supernatural soap opera  "Dark Shadows" has been in development for ages now but it looks like it's finally happening. Tim Burton is finalizing his cast. In previous years this news would have thrilled me to no end. But it's been a long time since I could love a Burton film without reservation and adapting long form serials to the two hour demands of the big screen is wrought with... ahem... issues, no matter how talented the team. But maybe it's worth hoping that Burton could regain some early 90s glory? The last "vampires" (of sorts) that Tim Burton trained his camera on were actors playing them in his superb biopic Ed Wood (1994) so let's take that as a good omen.

And this:

"Elizabeth Collins Stoddard" and Michelle PfeifferDeadline reports that both Michelle Pfeiffer (wheeeeeeeee) and Helena Bonham Carter (duh! It's a Burton film) are both lined up for the major roles of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard and Dr. Julia Hoffman respectively.

The best part of this news might be this sentence at The Hollywood Reporter.

Pfeiffer is finding herself very much in demand this new year.

Music to a pfan's ears.

Since I've never seen an episode of Dark Shadows (have you?) I had to look these roles up. Elizabeth sounds like a beauty of a part. She's the regal shut in matriarch of the mansion where the story takes place and Wikipedia says "Despite her imperious and reserved exterior, Elizabeth is a deeply passionate woman who harbors several dark secrets." Ice queen with deep wells of inner fire? That's what you call Pfeifferian. It's not exactly a stretch but let's pray that Burton gets performances as good as he got for Ed Wood (which won Martin Landau the Oscar as the drug-haunted, faded star Bela Lugosi).

Dr Julia Meet Dr HelenaAs for Helena's role, she's a doctor who specializes in blood disorders who discovers the vampiric lead character Barnabas Collins. Over the course of the series her relationship to the vampire changes apparently but since this is a feature film with only two hours to tell the story who knows if she's friend or foe.

Some of you may recall that my friend Susan wrote a piece on this movie a couple years back at the old Film Experience blog and wherein she saw HBC coming in this exact role, writing.

Dr. Julia Hoffman's questionable methods and attitude make her my favorite character (so far) from the original series. The epitome of Barnabas’s foolishness is that he can’t see how fabulous the not-so-good doctor is since he’s blinded by the boring (but youthful) babes. If Burton ends up directing this, I’ll expect Helena Bonham Carter to take on this role, and since she doesn’t have to sing, I think she’d be a pretty good choice.

I presume I don't have to tell you which movie star has the lead role of Barnabas Collins. Who else would it be? Yes, him. Eva Green as the witch Angelique and Jackie Earle Haley as the con artist Willie Loomis have also joined the ballooning cast.

Have you ever seen Dark Shadows? Do you like the casting?