Monday, February 25, 2013

Image = Punching Your Weight

OK - so everyone's asking me what I thought about the Oscars and my answer is - in a word - disappointed.  From the moment I heard that Seth MacFarlane would be hosting, I thought it was a bad fit.  I feel he hasn't paid his dues for such an honor and he would be out of his league.  As the day of the show grew closer, I began to change my mind and decided to support him as a host, even tweeting yesterday that I was rooting for him to rock it.  But he didn't.  The opening sequence was a tedious, circuitous path to a disappointing payoff and most of his jokes were unnecessarily mean spirited.  The Oscars is supposed to be a celebration of the best of Hollywood and Seth MacFarlane does not represent that.  He's a smart, talented guy who made one movie last year that made a lot of money.  His Family Guy audience is mostly young people and that's who goes to see movies like Ted, so you do the mathMy parents, who have been going to the movies their whole lives don't know who Seth MacFarlane is and don't care.   I'm not even sure why Seth agreed to host the Oscars because it definitely doesn't fit his image.  He's so cool and accomplished already - why did he need the Oscars? 

Kerry Washington
Jessica Chastain in Giorgio Armani
Jessica Chastain
Over the past few years, watching the Oscars and other award shows, I often find myself wanting more.  More glamour, more diverse nominations, more magic if you will.  Last night they had a great opportunity with the theme of "a tribute to movie musicals" to do a big splashy opening production number that would honor the history of movie musicals.  But they didn't.  Instead, the whole thing about Seth trying to steer the course of history to his favor took so long, there was very little time for music.  It could have been so...much...more.  The real musical tributes that followed later in the evening were definitely the highlight of an otherwise boring show.  Shirley Bassey, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jennifer Hudson and her majesty Barbra's numbers were fantastic.  But I still wanted MORE!

In terms of fashion, my favorite dresses of the night were on Kerry Washington, Jessica Chastain, Halle Berry & Kristin Chenoweth.  I was shocked to hate Jennifer Lawrence's dress because she usually has a great sense of style.  (Her dress at the Independent Spirit Awards dress the night before was sensational - see below).  But not her Oscar dress.  I'm not a fan of that beigey/non color on pale skin.  And the color plus the train made it look like a wedding dress.  And what happened to Anne Hathaway who is usually so chic?  Again I hated the pale pink satin and the sharp edges on her wiry body.

Halle Berry in Versace
Halle Berry
Best female lead nominee Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica
Jennifer Lawrence
In terms of awards, there were no surprises except for Ang Lee, which was a pleasant upset.  I was hoping for an eleventh hour upset with Best Actress too.  I wanted that nine year old to have a new golden toy.  But alas - it was not to be.  I guess I just have to be grateful that THE best film of the year is actually THE Best Picture.

BTW - if you don't know who Tony and Emmy award winner Kristin Chenoweth is, you are missing out on a major talent.  Go to her website right now and find out: 

Kristin Chenoweth

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Image = Nightmare

As most of Hollywood's biggest problem is deciding what to wear this Sunday, an Academy Award nominated documentarian had to fight for his chance to simply attend the ceremony.   I think this story speaks volumes about image causing a strong impact.  It is also yet another great example of how great my hero Michael Moore is.  

Here's the full story

’5 Broken Cameras’ director detained in LAX on way to Oscars (Updated)

Emad Burnat in Bil’in. (Photo: Edmund Sanders / LA Times)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Image + Film = Awards

The advertising slogan “Image is Everything” is what I base my career on, and this applies especially to the world of film.  With the Academy Awards a few days away, I’d like to make some observations about how image affects a film’s success and its award nominations, for better or worse.  The easiest way to do this is to go film by film.  Now I need to say that I have not seen Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained or Amour because I just don’t want to.  But I did see A LOT of films in 2012…         

Let’s begin with Silver Linings Playbook, a very well made indie film that makes an interesting statement about the pervasive and at times, elusive nature of mental illness.  That’s it.  It is NOT an Oscar caliber film.  But with Harvey Weinstein at the helm working his marketing & publicity magic, the film has received a lot of attention and the cast secured nominations in all four acting categories (not done since Reds in 1981) and none of the performances blew me out of my seat.  I fear that Jennifer Lawrence, who granted - is talented, will win for Best Actress very prematurely (she’s only 22!) and this will set the tone for her career.  And the Jacki Weaver nomination (Supporting Actress) is perplexing because she barely did anything and I saw many other performances that were more worthy – namely EVERY woman in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

There’s a little tiny indie called Beasts of the Southern Wild and I am pleased that it has received recognition, and I am rooting for 9 year old Quvenzhane Wallis to take the Best Actress prize.  But how is it possible that Dwight Henry who plays the young girl’s father has not received ANY nominations?  Not even an Independent Spirit Award (which take place the night before the Oscars)?!  His was arguably the most powerful performance of the year.  Maybe it’s because Mr. Henry is a baker in Louisiana who has never acted before and so he didn’t campaign for it.  I’m not sure but it boggles my mind that he is not a contender.

Next we have Lincoln.  Daniel Day Lewis is astonishingly good (so good that a friend said he should get an Oscar just for the poster!)  Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field and a few other actors give memorable performances and the script by Tony Kushner is excellent.  Despite all this though, is it a great film?  No.  There are good elements but as a whole, it really is like a pretty good TV movie.  The reason it has done so well is the idol worship of Steven Spielberg - and hype.  Enough said.
I am not a fan of Quentin Tarantino (I mean really, is all that blood necessary?)  However, he has a cult following and Django has a cool cast so again, I don’t know if it’s worthy but it could simply be a case of the public wanting to support a cult hero…

Now there’s Life of Pi – from the book they said was “unfilmable” by Ang Lee, who is one of the most unique, risk taking filmmakers of our time.  (I met him once and actually thanked him for the gift of Brokeback Mountain).  But I wonder if the same film would be nominated if it was a small indie by an unknown director…   

There has been a ton of speculation about why Ben Affleck did not get an Academy Award nomination for Best Director for Argo.  Maybe it’s because the Academy decided to expand the number of Best Picture noms and so now it’s impossible to honor each film’s director.  Interestingly though he won the Golden Globe, the BAFTA and a slew of other directing awards. In this case, having no hype surrounding him and little respect as a director may be the key to Argo’s success.  No one knew that Mr. Affleck could pull something like this off.  As George Clooney said in Entertainment Weekly, Ben Affleck was in “actor jail” prior to Argo.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here.  Argo is a perfect film.  Great story, stellar ensemble cast, funny, dramatic, suspenseful and maintains a great pace.  I think it may be a dark horse victory to take the big one on Sunday night.  It deserves Best Picture because it is THE best film of 2012.

The thing that saddens me the most is the amount of great work I saw in 2012 that received no accolades. The Perks of Being a Wallflower has a great script and was a critical success so how come no love, even for Best Adapted Screenplay?  Also how is it possible that John Hawkes is not up for Best Actor for The Sessions but Helen Hunt is honored (again inexplicably!) with a nomination when she couldn’t even keep up her Boston accent throughout the film?  Is it because she already has a golden statuette on her mantel and she took her clothes off at 48?  And she’s a household name and Hawkes isn’t?  It’s very frustrating.  John Goodman was hilarious in 2 great films – Flight and Argo – how come no Supporting Actor nom for him?

I also think there’s a problem when great actors get nominations for good performances in terrible work.  No one respects Philip Seymour Hoffman more than me, but The Master was simply unbearable.  Amy Adams is very well respected in Hollywood and another example of getting a nomination for just standing there.  And don’t even get me started on Joaquin Phoenix… Should we really be honoring actors who publicly retire from acting and criticize the whole concept of awards?                   
I feel that now I just need to list all the un-recognized great work I saw last year.  Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Ruby Sparks, Bernie, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Hope Springs, (Steve Carell was great doing dramatic work in the last two – when will he get acknowledged?), Your Sister’s Sister, Any Day Now.  I will end with one thought in the gifted prolific actor-diverse body of work-never gets any recognition category - Alan Cummings.