Friday, February 29, 2008

ShoWest Honoring Lee, Schamus for Lust, Caution Bravery

By Katey Rich


The awards handed out at ShoWest are usually the same from year to year: Female Star of the Year, Female Star of Tomorrow, Director of the Year, etc. But every now and then an accomplishment comes up that warrants its own award, and hey, who better than ShoWest to hand out an award that no one else might? That's how Ang Lee and James Schamus will be honored at ShoWest this year, with the ShoWest/NATO Freedom of Expression Award.

You may remember how Lee's latest film, Lust, Caution, was slapped with an NC-17 rating, limiting the film's possible release locations and audience. But it turns out, that's exactly what National Association of Theatre Owners president John Fithian wanted to happen. As he said in a press release issued today, "One year ago at ShoWest, I called upon cinematic artists to take the NC-17 rating seriously. Ang Lee and James Schamus answered that call with Lust, Caution, demonstrating uncompromising integrity in their filmmaking."

Given how much meddling is done with the ratings before a movie comes out, adding an extra f-word here to get an R rating or cutting short a sex scene to get a PG-13, it's truly remarkable to find a filmmaker willing to stick with what the MPAA will give, even if that significantly damages the film's chance of getting a large audience. Does this mean a future in which NC-17 movies are considered respectable enough for the local multiplex? Maybe not. But as Fithian also points out, the rating guarantees that it is an adult movie for adults; so were Before The Devil Knows You're Dead and There Will Be Blood. The rating reflects the subject matter-- for Lust, Caution, a sexual relationship-- more than the film's quality.

It was a shame to see that Lee, after being rewarded so widely for Brokeback Mountain two years ago, was largely shut out of the awards race this year. But hey, that's ShoWest: always going with the unexpected.

Today's Film News: New Line No More

By Katey Rich

Newline A stalwart in independent film that made it big enough to play with the majors is, essentially, no more: New Line heads Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne are out the door, and the studio will be folded into its parent company, Warner Bros., as a specialty arm. New Line was experiencing well-publicized financial troubles since the blockbuster success of Lord of the Rings, and had moved away from its roots in offbeat, independent film distribution. The fate of The Hobbit, New Line's planned two-picture adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein's book, is unclear, as is the status of New Line-owned Picturehouse. It's the end of an era, folks.

Marshall For the first time ever, I can tell you in all honesty I knew this before Variety reported it: Forgetting Sarah Marshall collaborators Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller will team up again for The Five-Year Engagement, a romantic comedy that will be, like Marshall, produced by Judd Apatow. Segel and Stoller are co-writing the script, and Segel will star as a man engaged for five years. "It's definitely an extension of our desire to explore the depth of human misery," Stoller told Variety. You can learn plenty more about these guys in my feature article about Forgetting Sarah Marshall, coming soon to the Film Journal International website!

Looks like twenty-somethings are the new teenagers. Indie comedy Bumped will be The Breakfast Club remade as five twenty-somethings bumped off a flight in the Chicago airport. As The Hollywood Reporter describes it, they'll be different "types," such as the musician, the buttoned-up executive, and the flirt. Anna Mastro, who has worked closely with McG in the past, will direct the script by Lizzy Weiss. No word on whether or not there will be a choreographed dance number on the railings in the library, though we can all remain hopeful.

And finally, the French seems to be as excited about the Indiana Jones sequel as I am: it looks like the film will have its world premiere at Cannes in May, much like Ocean's Thirteen did last summer. The Variety article also notes that Steven Spielberg has not shown anyone a cut of the movie, which might be causing some hand-wringing over at Paramount. I'm sticking with the camp that, uh, it's Indiana Jones, and probably next-to-impossible to screw up.

Box Office Outlook: Not Just for Pros Anymore

By Katey Rich

Well, it's almost spring, which means it's time for another Will Ferrell sports comedy. And the Oscars are over, which means it's once again OK to release respectable material, especially if that respectable material is just a wee bit too cheesy for anyone to mention come the end of the year. And there you have our weekend outlook, which is considerably less grim than the last one, especially if you love watching Will Ferrell run around like a buffoon or Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson fight over the same guy. Oh, come on, who doesn't love that?

Semi_pro_1_2 SEMI-PRO. Opening in 3,121 theatres. You've gotta hand it to Will Ferrell-- even when he's starring in what seems like the same sports comedy over and over again, he has some great character names. We've gone from Ricky Bobby and Chazz Michael Michaels to Jackie Moon, the owner of a Michigan semi-pro basketball team that's about to be absorbed, and disbanded, by the NBA. To save his team Moon decides they must win that year's chamionship, and brings in a wizened veteran (Woody Harrelson) to shape up the team, which includes one legitimate star (Andre Benjamin). A slew of supporting players also stop by, including Tim Meadows, Wil Arnett, David Koechner and Rob Corddry.

For the most part, no one is particularly happy to see Ferrell return to the sports arena. "Semi-Pro is a comedy divided against itself," writes our Ethan Alter, complaining about the discrepancy between Ferrell's outsized character and the other actors on screen. The Washington Post is disappointed with Ferrell himself, calling his performance "halfhearted, disconcertingly crude and only occasionally amusing." And the Chicago Tribune calls director Kent Alterman to task, writing, "Alterman has no knack for setting up a visual gag, setting a tone, establishing any sort of rhythm." The Village Voice concedes that the movie is "semi-funny" but also credits the cast: "the movie's stocked with terrific, fleshed-out characters." But Variety laughed its head off: "By turns riotously silly and casually clever, with the occasional outburst of inspired lunacy."

PenelopePENELOPE. Opening in 1,196 theatres.. This long-delayed fantasy stars Christina Ricci as the daughter of a wealthy family who is cursed with a very unusual facial feature-- a pig's nose. The curse, like most fairy-tale curses, can only be lifted when she meets her true love "of her kind." Her blue-blood parents, of course, assume this means another rich boy, so they bring in parades of suitors, all of whom panic when they see Penelope's face. Sick of living her life in captivity, Penelope strikes out on her own, and becomes a worldwide celebrity-- and, naturally, finds true love (with James McAvoy of all people). Reese Witherspoon produced and also stars, along with Catherine O'Hara, Peter Dinklage and Richard E. Grant.

For all its minor charms, Penelope pretty much failed to win over any critics. Our Lewis Beale might have liked it the best of anyone, but he joined many other critics in calling it Tim Burton-lite. "All of this is told in a magical, fairy-tale style with just the right leavening of's just that Penelope, for all its good intentions, is a case of too little, too late." Peter Travers at Rolling Stone is far more terse: "Penelope is dead on arrival." Stephen Holden at The New York Times calls it "a muddled, charm-free fairy tale," while the Minneapolis Star-Tribune scoffs, "This little piggy should have stayed home."

Boleyn THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL. Opening in 1,166 theatres. Based on Philippa Gregory's best-selling historical novel, The Other Boleyn Girl tells the famous story of Anne Boleyn and her less-famous sister Mary, both of them mistresses and one of them a wife of England's King Henry VIII. Mary (Scarlett Johansson) becomes the king's lover first and has two of his children, but the more ambitious Anne (Natalie Portman) swoops in and takes the king for her own, with the intention of becoming queen. History buffs will remember that her plan didn't turn out too well for her in the end. Jim Sturgess, Kristin Scott Thomas and David Morrissey also star.

I wasn't crazy about this overblown drama, but most critics were just fine with it. Our David Noh writes, "Peter Morgan, who proved he knows from royalty in his script for The Queen, has fashioned a fast-paced, competent adaptation which Brit TV director Justin Chadwick has lensed with verve." Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly fell hard for Portman's performance: "There's a bold new authority to the actress' sensuality. She sparkles with deception, daring to flaunt passion as well as ambition." Rex Reed at the New York Observer is enamored with the talented credits in front of and behind the camera, and notes, "The cast works hard, if somewhat erratically." But Carrie Rickey at the Philadelphia Inquirer is a little harsher: "Scenes are milked not for their emotional texture but confrontational pow, which gets exhausting." She also hilariously notes the most important aspect of the film, at least from a feminist standpoint: "Outside of The First Wives Club and porn movies, it's so rare to see plural females on screen that Portman and Johansson may be forgiven for seizing their roles as lapsed vegans might lamb chops."

Bonneville_2 BONNEVILLE. Opening in 101 theatres. Road trip! In Bonneville, three ladies of a certain age (played by Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Joan Allen) hit the road between Idaho and southern California to deliver the ashes of a deceased husband to a wicked stepdaughter (Christine Baranski). Along the way they learn things about themselves, about America, and about every other thing you usually learn about in the road movie.

Most critics couldn't even muster the energy to properly pan this drama. "For Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Joan Allen to headline a female buddy movie filled with clichs and stock characters says a lot about the kinds of scripts they're being sent these days," sighs our Lewis Beale. Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly looks for the expected Thelma & Louise nod, doesn't find it, and credits that as "exactly why the tires are so low on this creaky vehicle." And Aaron Hillis at the Village Voice is willing to call a spade a spade: "Couldn't be more dull-humored or predictably maudlin without just calling itself The Bucket List 2." But Andrew Sarris at The New York Observer throws us all for a loop, with not exactly praise, but not scorn either: "At the very least, Bonneville deserves to be seen as a challenge and a rebuke to our supposedly youth-obsessed age."

Cityofmenposter1_2 CITY OF MEN. Opening in 75 theatres. OK, stay with me now. City of God was a movie, about the slums of Rio de Janeiro. It was so successful it was turned into a TV show, called City of Men, which followed two boys from the film as they grew up. And now the TV show has been turned into a movie of the same name. Fernando Meirelles, who directed City of God and went on to direct English-language The Constant Gardener, is back as a producer here.

The critics are all thrilled to see these two boys back on the screen. Our Kevin Lally credits the performances by the two actors, writing that they "fully deserve their shot at the big screen in the colorful and engaging City of Men movie." Newsday thinks the movie is a little flashy, but concludes that it "somehow wins you over with its steady, underlying flow of intimacy and compassion." Variety favorably compares it to City of God, calling it "a lighter but also more emotionally satisfying take on the lives of favela gangstas." And the Arizona Republic takes comfort in the fact that the film is willing to be optimistic: "The film is heartbreaking as it shows kids making all the wrong choices for all the wrong reasons, yet ultimately hopeful as it dares to portray a less-bleak future for at least some of its characters."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

There's Still One More Strike To Worry About

By Katey Rich

Variety has a how-your-sausage-gets-made kind of article today that reminds us all that we're not really out of the strike zone yet. The impending contract renegotiation with SAG could lead to an actor walkout on June 30, just three and a half months after the writers returned to work. That means that the big productions that are giddy to get back to work are still having to face the prospect of shutting the whole thing down again.

Michael Bay, currently developing Transformers 2, gives some insight on the situation, and really, who else would you want to translate labor woes for you? "You hope for the best, but you can't be incapacitated by the possibility that there will be a strike. We've got to get this town back to work." Transformers 2 hasn't yet started production, but the film's three--count 'em, three!-- writers are currently incarcerated in order to finish the script. No, seriously. "They did a detailed outline before the writers strike, and now they are in Michael Bay jail, holed up in a hotel and working feverishly. We're paying for a beautiful suite and they are getting a lot of work done."

Terminator: Salvation has a detailed strike plan outlined in the article, which includes a guaranteed plane ticket out of the Arizona shooting location should a strike begin. For such a big-budget, effects-heavy film, the hope is to finish all the scenes with the actors and let the visual effects people get their work done while the actors walk the picket line.

On the exhibition side of things we tend to think about films only in terms of release dates, and these kinds of delays don't matter too much. But it's frustrating and disheartening to remember that we're potentially on the brink of another long-term work stoppage. Of course, George Clooney is on the case, encouraging SAG members to strike a deal, and given that he's spent the last few years saving the world, I trust him to be in charge. And if he doesn't solve it, well, Michael Bay has a nice prison where he can atone for his shortcomings...

Today's Film News: Wimps Will Inherit The Earth

By Katey Rich

WimpykidFinally, Hollywood is realizing that the reign of the superhero is finished, and it's time for the wimps to shine! The Hollywood Reporter tells us that Fox 2000 will adapt the book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney's bestselling series about ordinary middle schooler Greg Heffley. The studio has the rights to all five existing books, three of which are not yet available. Are we set for movie franchises about children who don't even have magical powers?

Well, there will still be plenty of super-powered kids for the time being, at least. Freddie Highmore has signed on to provide the title character's voice in Astro Boy, the Warner Bros. adaptation of the manga TV series. Astro Boy isn't exactly a kid but a robot, created by a scientist in an attempt to replace his dead son. The original A.I.? Astro Boy is set to be released sometime next year.

BondsOver a month after Sundance ended, Magnolia has picked up the rights to what The Hollywood Reporter calls one of the festival's "most buzzworthy" films. Bigger, Faster, Stronger is Christopher Bell's documentary about the current steroid scandals in professional sports. He also draws on his own personal experience, having had two brothers take steroids. Somehow, Bell also managed to interview Barry Bonds for the doc. Magnolia plans to release the film later this year.

And finally, it's a slow news day! But the trailers for summer movies are coming fast and furious, and two high-profile comedies have new or extended trailers up online. First up is Step Brothers, re-teaming Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as adult slackers whose parents marry. Then we have Get Smart, the take on the 60's spy comedy starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. The first Get Smart trailer looked a little iffy, but this one plays out the gags a little longer and reveals the comedic talent of The Rock of all people. Call me childish, but seeing a guy get a document stapled to his forehead is damn funny.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Michael Moore's Innovative Plan For Documentaries

By Katey Rich

Moore Michael Moore usually spends his time calling for reform in areas other than his own, be it the weapons industry or the Bush administration. But coming off a few years that were pretty nasty for documentaries at the box office, Moore has some ideas for his own industry, namely a way to get documentaries seen in places distributors might not otherwise dare to send them.

"I just believe that there are 12 people in every town in America that would like to see some non-fiction, instead of some fiction, for one night of the week," Moore said last Wednesday at a dinner hosted by the International Documentary Association, as reported by IndieWire. Oh yes, Michael Moore has a plan: It's called Doc Night in America, and it proposes to bring documentaries one night a week, to one screen in every multiplex.

But it's not quite as financially disastrous as it might sound. Moore points out that on weeknights, a given screen in a multiplex is probably empty, especially if it's dedicated as a second or third screen for the latest blockbuster."'Harry Potter doesn't need to be on seven screens. That seventh screen, it just isn't full, it never is and it's crowding out some very good movies."

Moore plans to meet with theatre exhibitors in the near future to propose his plan to show a documentary a week on the least-used screen in the theatre. His theory is that, with a little bit of the proper marketing, documentary fans will seek out these films, at least in greater numbers than the 12 or so audience members who see blockbusters on Tuesday nights.

Can it work? My guess is it's probably a lot more complicated than it seems. What gets shown at any given multiplex is a decision made by many people other than the specific theatre owner. Are enormous theatre chains equipped to make this kind of location-by-location decision-making, to figure out exactly where Spider-Man 4 isn't playing well and replace that slot with a documentary? Plus, how do these documentaries get chosen? I'd imagine there's plenty of interest now in Taxi to the Dark Side, having just won the Oscar, but what about the recent release The Unforeseen, which got a rave review from our critic Chris Barsanti. Which film is more likely to get an audience, and which is more worthy? That's an answer pretty much no one can know in advance.

I love Moore's idea, especially having grown up in a town with a dearth of movies worth seeing, and nary a documentary for miles. But I have to wonder if it's a plan that can work, especially with a mercurial, polarizing spokesperson at the head. Can the same people who wanted to boo Moore off the stage during his Oscar acceptance speech join hands with him to transform documentary distribution? Or is this like his baiting of Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine-- a provocative idea in theory, but in execution, not all that effective?

Today's Film News: New Line Has No 'Pride'

By Katey Rich

Pride_and_glory A movie that teams up Colin Farrell and Edward Norton seems like a no-brainer for at least moderate success, but New Line recently balked on giving Pride & Glory its intended March 14 release date, pushing it to some point next year. Now the film's director Gavin O'Connor is demanding answers. He told Variety, "I don't think [New Line CEO] Bob Shaye believes in it, and he's decided he'll only release (sure bet) films. He never had the decency to call me." The article suggests that O'Connor may seek a different distributor, though given the movie's $30 million price tag, it might be a tough sell.

Now for some happier, and genuinely exciting news. The visually arresting but weakly plotted dance film Step Up 2 The Streets will get a sequel in what seems like the perfect medium: 3D. Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot, heads of Offspring Entertainment who are also siblings, as Variety tells us, are developing the third film with Disney, logically titled Step Up 3D. In all the thinking I've done both about what movies would work in 3D and how cool those dance movies look, it never occurred to me to link the two. Good thing Shankman, who also blessed the world with Hairspray last summer, is doing the thinking for me.

DanoPaul Dano didn't take the stage at Sunday's Oscars, but smiled heartily from his seat, both because his co-star took home a prize and his career is blowin' up. The There Will Be Blood preacher will star and executive produce the indie feature Gigantic, set to star fellow bright young thing Zooey Deschanel. The movie features a number of warning flags: called an "offbeat romantic comedy" by The Hollywood Reporter, a first-time direct (Matt Aselton) is in charge, and it's set, oh-so-quirkily, in a mattress store. But Dano has proven to have pretty good taste up to this point, and it is possible to make a good offbeat romantic comedy. Just not easy. Then again, how easy is it to slap Daniel Day-Lewis in the face and get away with it?

And finally, that silly, constantly delayed Justice League of America project is going forward once again. Warner Bros. has hemmed in all its stars once more and has the writers, Kieran and Michele Mulroney, back to work. Variety  points out that the studio could really use another tentpole for 2009, given that The Watchmen, Terminator: Salvation and Where The Wild Things Are are pretty much all that's happening right now. But given Justice League's B-list cast (Adam Brody, the rapper Common) and constant script troubles, I still have my doubts about whether this can top Fantastic Four as the silliest movie to also be called a hit.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

WALL-E Is Summer's Most Anticipated Robot

By Katey Rich


So now that the Oscars are over, as I said on Friday, it's time to start thinking about the summer! The promotional machines for most big-ticket movies have yet to gear up in earnest, but every summer there's always one movie that doesn't have to put any effort into building a fan frenzy: the latest Pixar entry. Sneak peeks for WALL-E have been around for about a year, but as the June 27 release date grows nearer and we learn more about the story, the Pixar diehards of the world are just about tripping over themselves in excitement.

"I laughed, I cried (I'm serious), and I smiled, and by the end of the Disney panel, I was in love with WALL-E," writes Alex Billington at At WonderCon in San Francisco, a comic book convention, WALL-E writer-director Andrew Stanton (he also did Finding Nemo) showed four clips from the movie and spoke a little about his inspiration in making it. While some of the clips were familiar from the trailers, Billington says that the combined effect of new scenes and Stanton's speech convinced him that "WALL-E is going to be the best movie of 2008." (emphasis his)

Pixar detractors-- can there really be Pixar detractors?-- may cry foul, but as someone who was rooting for Brad Bird to win for Ratatouille's screenplay on Sunday, I'm practically as giddy as Billington. He describes the four clips and gives a slightly better idea of the plot than has been explained thus far. WALL-E, as we know, is a garbage disposal robot left on Earth hundreds of years after humans have abandoned it. He occupies himself and talks to no one until a lady robot named Eve lands on Earth as part of an expedition. WALL-E, it turns out, is not just meant for garbage removal-- he's meant to love. Desperate not to lose the only friend he's ever had, he stows away on Eve's spaceship and sets off on an intergalactic journey.

Writes Billington about WALL-E's trip through space: "The score and music were an incredible addition that topped off one of the most emotional Pixar scenes I have ever watched." Whoah. Stanton, who gave fish feelings in Finding Nemo, explained that he designed WALL-E not to be an anthropomorphized idea of a robot, but an actual machine. "I wanted to believe that a robot is really there. I wanted to believe he is really a robot and not just a human in a robot shell." Hopefully C-3P0 won't be offended.

Nemo_2Rat_3 As Pixar's output grows vaster, the directors who work within the company are making their voices known: Brad Bird, the Rand-ian celebrator of the quest for perfection and the greatness within us all, makes us dream of being better versions of ourselves in Ratatouille and The Incredibles. Stanton, a heartstring tugger with Finding Nemo and A Bug's Life, focuses on human connections, even when those connections are between invertebrates or robots. WALL-E seems a lot more likely to make me cry and hug my parents, perhaps a better goal for a movie about the future, which could easily be more about machines and ideas than good old-fashioned emotion. Bird may want us to strive toward a brave new world, but Stanton will find the beating heart at its center.

Today's Film News: If An Oscar Falls In The Forest...

By Katey Rich

Stewart When I opened my post yesterday with the question "Didja watch the Oscars?", I pretty much assumed that you had. I mean, it's the Oscars! Turns out that wasn't such a safe bet. Sunday's show was the lowest-rated Oscars ever, with a 20% drop in audience since last year. Thirty-two million people tuned in, which according to Variety is fewer than watched the season premiere of "American Idol" and a third of the number that watched the Super Bowl a few weeks ago. Poor Jon Stewart will continue going on the record as the host of Oscar shows that nobody watches, even though his performance last night was pretty stellar by my estimation. And let's not even talk about what it means that the one year the Academy nominates a bunch of great films is the year no one watches; watch out for Shrek Goes Forth sweeping the top five awards in 2010.

Well, now that the dog and pony show is over and done with, it's back to business. In casting news, Jonathan Rhys Meyers has joined Julianne Moore in the horror thriller Shelter, the English-language debut from the Swedish directing team Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein. The two actors make a good pair, but keep in mind that for all their acclaimed work, each has participated in some cringe-worthy material. (August Rush and Next are recent examples that come to mind.) So let's not get all excited just yet, though Lord knows we could use a horror thriller with a fraction of intelligence.

Mortimer The cast of Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, already star-studded, has gotten even bigger, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Max von Sydow (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), Emily Mortimer (Lars and the Real Girl, not to mention a hilarious recurring role on "30 Rock") and Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) will also star in the film, about a patient who escapes from a mental hospital located off the coast of Maine. Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Ben Kingsley and Mortimer's Lars co-star Patricia Clarkson are already cast.

And finally, the quietest news today may also be the biggest: Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon have signed on to direct and star in a fourth Bourne movie, as interpreted by Cinematical from a Universal press release. The two had said previously that neither would return to the franchise if the other didn't. There are two more Robert Ludlum books on which to base another movie about the jet-setting spy, and given that Bourne won more Oscars than There Will Be Blood on Sunday, there's a lot of prestige, not to mention a lot of money, left to be gained.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Falling Slowly for Once

By Katey Rich

80th_ss088 Over at Awards Daily, everyone is feeling the warm fuzzies from Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard's win for their stunning "Falling Slowly" from Once, and seeing the two of them up there was doubtlessly one of the highlights of a night full of largely expected winners. When Irglova took the stage again after being cut off by the orchestra, she said, "The fact that we're standing here tonight, the fact that we're able to hold this, it's just proof that no matter how far out your dreams are, it's possible."

In the same Awards Daily post, a commenter submitted a full list of the Best Song winners in the history of the Oscars. The list is remarkable, both for how many gems are included-- "Over the Rainbow, "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," "White Christmas"-- and how many years seemed to have been fallow for truly worthy songs (who remembers the movie The Prince of Egypt, much less its Oscar-winning song?)

But in the best of years, like this one, the songs chosen evoke an unexplainable feeling about the movies they come from. You can't read the title "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" without hearing it in your mind, and thinking immediately of Robert Redford and Paul Newman goofing around on a bicycle. And just thinking of those first seven notes of "Moon River" evokes all the optimism and sad-eyed melancholy of Breakfast at Tiffany's, from the cigarette holder to the nameless cat.

Some years you doubt the reason for the existence of the Best Song category-- this ain't the Grammys!-- but looking over that list, you can't deny the power of a good song in a good movie to capture the whole thing in a three-minute melody. "Falling Slowly" deserved the Grammy it didn't win, surely, but the meaning of the song is so much greater within the context of the film, as a courtship and a collaboration all at once. That's what makes a song Oscar-worthy-- like art direction or cinematography, it brings something to the film that it never could have had without it. Surely we'll see some turkeys win in this category again, but Glen and Marketa have silenced anyone who would call for the abolition of this category for a long while.

Below the jump is the full list of winners; thanks a bunch again to Awards Daily's Pierre de Plume for posting the list.

1934: "The Continental" from The Gay Divorcee
1935: "Lullaby of Broadway" from Gold Diggers of 1935
1936: "The Way You Look Tonight" from Swing Time
1937: "Sweet Leilani" from Waikiki Wedding
1938: "Thanks for the Memory" from The Big Broadcast of 1938
1939: "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz
1940: "When You Wish upon a Star" from Pinocchio
1941: "The Last Time I Saw Paris" from Lady Be Good
1942: "White Christmas" from Holiday Inn
1943: "You'll Never Know" from Hello, Frisco, Hello
1944: "Swinging on a Star" from Going My Way
1945: "It Might As Well Be Spring" from State Fair
1946: "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" from The Harvey Girls
1947: "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" from Song of the South
1948: "Buttons and Bows" from The Paleface
1949: "Baby, It's Cold Outside" from Neptune's Daughter
1950: "Mona Lisa" from Captain Carey, U.S.A.
1951: "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" from Here Comes the Groom
1952: "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" from High Noon
1953: "Secret Love" from Calamity Jane
1954: "Three Coins in the Fountain" from Three Coins in the Fountain
1955: "Love Is a Many-Spendored Thing" from Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
1956: "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" from The Man Who Knew Too Much
1957: "All The Way" from The Joker Is Wild
1958: "Gigi" from Gigi
1959:"High Hopes" from A Hole in the Head
1960: "Never On Sunday" from Never on Sunday
1961: "Moon River" from Breakfast at Tiffany's
1962: "Days of Wine and Roses" from Days of Wine and Roses
1963: "Call Me Irresponsible" from Papa's Delicate Condition
1964: "Chim Chim Cher-ee" from Mary Poppins
1965: "The Shadow of Your Smile" from The Sandpiper
1966: "Born Free" from Born Free
1967: "Talk to the Animals" from Doctor Dolittle
1968: "The Windmills of Your Mind" from The Thomas Crown Affair
1969: "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
1970: "For All We Know" from Lovers and Other Strangers
1971: "Theme from Shaft" from Shaft
1972: "The Morning After" from The Poseidon Adventure
1973: "The Way We Were" from The Way We Were
1974: "We May Never Love Like This Again" from The Towering Inferno
1975: "I'm Easy" from Nashville
1976: "Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)" from A Star Is Born
1977: "You Light Up My Life" from You Light Up My Life
1978: "Last Dance" from Thank God It's Friday
1979: "It Goes Like It Goes" from Norma Rae
1980: "Fame" from Fame
1981: "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" from Arthur
1982: "Up Where We Belong" from An Officer and a Gentleman
1983: "Flashdance�What a Feeling" from Flashdance
1984: "I Just Called To Say I Love You" from The Woman in Red
1985: "Say You, Say Me" from White Nights
1986: "Take My Breath Away" from Top Gun
1987: "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing
1988: "Let the River Run" from Working Girl
1989: "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid
1990: "Sooner Or Later (I Always Get My Man)" from Dick Tracy
1991: "Beauty and the Beast" from Beauty and the Beast
1992: "A Whole New World" from Aladdin
1993: "Streets of Philadelphia" from Philadelphia
1994: "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from The Lion King
1995: "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas
1996: "You Must Love Me" from Evita
1997: "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic
1998: "When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt
1999: "You'll Be In My Heart" from Tarzan
2000: "Things Have Changed" from Wonder Boys
2001: "If I Didn't Have You" from Monsters, Inc.
2002: "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile
2003: "Into the West" from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2004: "Al Otro Lado Del Ro" from The Motorcycle Diaries
2005: "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow
2006: "I Need to Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth
2007: "Falling Slowly" from Once

Today's Film News: La Vie en Oscar

By Katey Rich

Cotillard Hey, didja watch the Oscars last night? Well, even if you didn't, the rest of the Internet did. There's roundups all over the place, from Variety's slew of articles (Favorite headline: "Celebrities brave rain on Oscar Night") to Jeff Wells' mess of real-time posts to the Carpetbagger's reports from the press room and the after-parties. If what you're looking for is a simple list of winners, though, The Hollywood Reporter has you covered. Do take a moment, though, to read the various winner reactions from the press room, including my favorite from surprise Best Actress winner Marion Cotillard: "I'm totally overwhelmed with joy and sparkles and fireworks, and everything which goes like �BAM! BAM! BAM!' (It's as if) I just ate all those things, and it's happening right here, right now." I think there should be a new rule to let at least one person win each year who speaks English as a second language and can come up with something that evocative and nonsensical.

Cate_2  Oh, and there was another awards show over the weekend. Even though the Independent Spirit Awards are known for their breezy, beachfront attitude, the rain didn't keep the show from producing hilarious anecdotes and heartwarming wins. Juno went home with the big prize of best feature, as well as wins for Ellen Page and Diablo Cody (for best first screenplay). Cate Blanchett and Julian Schnabel, longshots in each of their categories at the Oscars, went home with prizes for I'm Not There and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, respectively. The Hollywood Reporter has the scoop, including an adorable shot of Ellen Page accepting her award in a suit. I'm still waiting for video of the reported "brawl" between host Rainn Wilson and Best Actor winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.

You want real news, after all that? It's slim pickings today, since everyone in Hollywood spent the weekend primping and is now busy detoxing. The German distribution company TeleMunchen bought territory rights to Martin Scorsese's as-yet-unfinished Shutter Island for a record $12 million. The Reporter tells us that Paramount Vantage has also sold the project to several other European territories, though none for quite so much cash. Coen Brothers, take note: You have two Oscars to Scorsese's one, so sell that next project to Germany for $25 million or bust. Use them like bowling pins, Daniel Plainview-style, if you must.

And our last scoop of the day comes from Culture Vulture, which picked up some information from a guy named Cory about the voice cast for Hoodwinked 2: Hood vs. Evil. (Full disclosure: This movie has been in development forever, and I had assumed it would never exist.) Among them are "Heroes" star Hayden Panettiere, taking over the Red Riding Hood role from Anne Hathaway, and Martin Short, playing "The Woodsman." Joan Cusack, David Alan Grier, Wayne Newton (?!?) and Brad Garrett will be taking on new roles, and "SNL" stars Amy Poehler and Bill Hader will be voicing Hansel & Gretel. I love those two, but no, it will not be enough to make me see this movie.

Weekend Roundup: The #1 Vantage

By Katey Rich


For most of us movie fiends the weekend was all about Oscar, Oscar, Oscar! But out in the rest of the world people were still headed to the multiplex, and among their less-than-stellar choices Vantage Point came out on top. The movie managed $24 million, a solid lead over second place holdover Jumper ($12 million). The situation for Vantage Point's fellow freshmen was quite grimmer; Be Kind Rewind is the only one that managed to crack the top ten, and even limited by its 808 theatre rollout, it made just $4 million, good for 7th place. Now's the time to get cranky with all the critics who didn't recognize Be Kind for all its delights and recommend it as an alternative to Fool's Gold.

Speaking of the McConaughey-Hudson vehicle, it's sticking around in 5th place, with $6.2 million. It was edged out this weekend by newer holdovers The Spiderwick Chronicles ($12.6 million) and Step Up 2 The Streets ($9.7 million), which landed at #3 and #4, respectively. The last of the President's Day weekend releases, Definitely, Maybe, continued to underperform, landing at #6 with $5.2 million. It's a shame we can't blame the critics for letting this one slide; they definitely liked it and still everyone wants to see Fool's Gold instead.

The rest of the top ten was filled out by the Oscar nominees with the most staying power, Little Miss Juno at #8 with $4.1 million and There Will Be Blood drinking milkshakes at #10 with $2.5 million. Oh, and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, a movie I had completely forgotten about, was sandwiched between them with $3.9 million.

Check out the full top 20 after the jump, which includes two more of our Best Picture nominees, No Country for Old Men and Atonement, as well as the two other releases this weekend. Happily, the American people were smart enough to stay away from something with the word Witless in the title, and left the new Larry the Cable Guy offering alone. Charlie Bartlett, the offbeat teen comedy, fared even worse, with $1.8 million. I was also surprised to see Hannah Montana still hovering out there, given that whole "one-week extension!" hype after the Super Bowl weekend run was such a hit. I guess there's not much room for truth in advertising when you're milking the cash cow.

TWLWTitle (click to view)StudioWeekend Gross% ChangeTheater Count / ChangeAverageTotal GrossBudget*Week #
1NVantage PointSony$24,000,000-3,149-$7,621$24,000,000$401
32The Spiderwick ChroniclesPar.$12,600,000-33.7%3,847-$3,275$43,576,000$902
43Step Up 2 the StreetsBV$9,787,000-48.2%2,480+10$3,946$41,419,000-2
54Fool's GoldWB$6,270,000-51.4%3,075-50$2,039$52,433,000-3
65Definitely, MaybeUni.$5,184,000-46.9%2,220+16$2,335$21,781,000-2
7NBe Kind, RewindNL$4,100,000-808-$5,074$4,100,000-1
96Welcome Home Roscoe JenkinsUni.$3,989,000-53.1%1,873-514$2,129$35,498,000$353
1012There Will Be BloodParV$2,561,000-15.5%1,402-8$1,826$34,986,000-9
118The Bucket ListWB$2,555,000-36.0%1,902-405$1,343$85,154,000$459
1214No Country for Old MenMira.$2,275,000+20.8%1,101+176$2,066$64,162,000-16
Click here to find out more!
13NWitless ProtectionLGF$2,190,000-1,333-$1,642$2,190,000-1
14NCharlie BartlettMGM$1,820,000-1,122-$1,622$1,820,000-1
151027 DressesFox$1,625,000-49.2%1,367-569$1,188$73,094,000$306
169Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert TourBV$1,516,000-53.5%613-72$2,473$61,876,000-4
1711The EyeLGF$1,300,000-59.2%1,211-918$1,073$28,830,000-4
1926U2 3DNGC$1,075,000+163.5%686+646$1,567$4,892,000-5
2022In BrugesFocus$741,000-23.6%163+51$4,546$2,747,000-3

Friday, February 22, 2008

Nielsen Company Tells You Oscar Facts You Never Knew You Wanted To Know

By Katey Rich


Can you believe it? This is my last post here before the Oscar ceremony. The weird thing about being an Oscar obsessive is that you secretly ponder all these questions for months, and then all of a sudden this week everyone around you is saying, "Hey, what's that Amy Ryan all about?" Or you start a sentence with something like "Of course, without a Best Editing nomination it's really hard to win Best Picture..." and suddenly realize, no, not everyone knows Oscar arcana. I'm co-hosting an Oscar party with a friend who, like most Americans, has seen zero of the Best Picture nominees. It's a strange time to be an Oscar wonk, indeed.

Atonment3008_468x703 Parent company Nielsen, in traditional number-crunching fashion, has given us all sorts of facts to ponder as we go into what Hollywood is calling Oscar Weekend, and what I'm calling Clean-My-Apartment-And-Maybe-Go-Have-A-Drink-With-Friends-And-Then-Watch-The-Oscars Weekend. Some of the "findings" are in the "no-duh" category: People on the coasts are more likely to watch the ceremony? Sales of the books on which the movies were based spike after the awards? Bloggers talk more about the Oscars during Oscar season? Faaaaaascinating. But those Nielsen statistic monkeys surprise you sometimes. I had merrily assumed that all five Best Picture nominees had gotten box-office bumps following the nominations, but No Country's wide expansion made little difference in its overall gross, and Atonement continued on the sharp attendance decline it had been experiencing for weeks. The tailor-made Oscar epic is actually less popular, box-office-wise, than difficult drama Michael Clayton.

Members of Nielsen's network Hey! Nielsen have also been putting in some Oscar predictions of their own; at this point in the game pretty much everyone is allowed to have an opinion, so let's see what they say. For most part they're down with the party line-- No Country, Daniel Day-Lewis, The Coens for director, Ratatouille for animated feature. But they're supporting Ellen Page for Best Actress by a healthy margin--33%--and have a dead tie between Cate Blanchett and Ruby Dee for Best Supporting Actress. An example of the public not knowing what the Academy will like, or a sign of the winds of change? I'm tending to think the former-- the fact that Ellen Page is also in the most popular Best Picture nominee is no coincidence-- but we'll only know late Sunday night.

PretzelsLiquor And finally, the Nielsen-bots send us off with a factoid so random, and so specific, that it makes me a little afraid. "Academy Award viewers also tend to be health-conscious consumers of wine, nuts, pretzels, yogurt, liquor, health bars, trail mix, coffee, pudding and popcorn." Wait, liquor is healthy now? And wait, how do they know this? I buy all of these things. Are they following me to the bodega around the corner when I get the afternoon snack pangs? And wait, liquor is healthy now? Great news for my Oscar party, at least.

For those of you anxious for some Oscar predictions that don't come from the good people of Hey! Nielsen, they're coming fast and furious all over the place. Some of the most accurate will likely be from the big aggregates, like Gurus o' Gold, the LA Times Buzzmeter, and the more populist Sultans of Bling over at Awards Daily. Those are probably much better guesses to go on than my own, though as Awards Daily always insists, "Nobody knows anything."

I'll be a little sad on Monday morning when everybody knows everything, and all that's left is to parse the results for a few days before bracing ourselves for summer movie season, and a long six months (at least!) before any of next year's Oscar contenders come out in earnest. I think back to my first day of last fall's New York Film Festival, when I saw The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and was utterly floored by it. It never occurred to me that attending that festival would give me a better leg up on awards season than ever before, or that this would finally be the first year in which I saw all five Best Picture nominees before the big night (Michael Clayton snuck in under the wire on Monday.) I've loved this Oscar season, with all the strike-related woe and No Country for Old Men sweeps, and I'll be sad to see it go. But you know what? I've got to make some room in this head of mine, and this blog, to get excited about The Dark Knight and Indiana Jones. Let's take a moment to hug our Oscar statues and thank our agents, and then on to the popcorn and explosions!


Box Office Outlook: Oscars? What Oscars?

By Katey Rich

We're almost home free. It's the last weekend of that deadly zone between New Year's Day and the Oscar ceremony, which means that before too long, the studios won't be afraid to release decent movies anymore. Oddly enough, this weekend provides room for the least complaint; the totally enjoyable if not great Vantage Point will be clobbering the competition, while Michel Gondry's delightful latest Be Kind Rewind will hopefully draw in the audience it deserves. Even the much-delayed comedy Charlie Bartlett is getting reasonable critical response. Sure, Larry the Cable Guy is part of this weekend too, but come on, beggars can't be choosers. If you're really out for highbrow this weekend, just turn on the TV and catch the endless clips of Daniel Day-Lewis shouting "I drink your milkshake!" and Javier Bardem calling everyone "Friendo." Hey, only a few more days and we'll be done seeing those clips too! I'm starting to like this end-of-February business a lot.

Vantage VANTAGE POINT. Opening in 3,000 theatres. The American President is shot during a speech in Spain, but no one who was there knows the whole truth. Vantage Point rewinds its story over and over to view the pivotal event through the eyes of several key characters: Rex (Sigourney Weaver), a TV news producer; Thomas and Kent (Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox), two secret service agents; American family man Howard (Forest Whitaker), who may have captured the killer on film, and the President himself (William Hurt). There's also a Spanish cop (Eduardo Noriega) who suspects that his girlfriend (Ayelet Zurer) may be responsible for the disaster that occurs after the President is shot. As you can imagine, there are car chases, explosions and gun battles aplenty.

While I swear to you Vantage Point is a genuinely enjoyable movie, not too many critics seem to agree with me. Our Kevin Lally calls it a "tricky but ultimately trivial thriller that wastes the talents of several Oscar winners and nominees." Way to work in a topical reference! The Chicago Tribune's review is a little more mixed, but ultimately concludes, "The information sorting and gathering required by Barry L. Levy's screenplay feels like night school as opposed to a great night out at the movies." Newsday was so irritated with the movie's silliness that it came up with a pretty good zinger: "[The filmmakers] populate their ground zero with cartoon figures mouthing the sort of simplistic dialogue that tends to gravitate toward the corners of comic-strip frames, trapped in balloons." In MetroMix's negative review they point out what becomes all-too-clear while watching the film: "It offers less entertainment than just awareness of how nearly every American male role seems like it was intended for Harrison Ford." And finally, The Washington Post relates a story that could be from the screening I attended: "During the third or fourth reprise of the assassination attempt and bombing, a member of my audience let out an involuntary 'Oh, God . . .' and the rest of the house erupted in sympathetic laughter."

Cb_poster3CHARLIE BARTLETT. Opening in 1,122 theatres. Fun fact: Film Journal featured Charlie Bartlett on the cover of last August's issue. What's taken this indie so long to come out? Who knows? Anton Yelchin plays the titular Bartlett, a very rich kid who gets kicked out of his private high school and sent to--gasp!--public school. Once there he decides to make himself popular by scamming various psychiatrists and scoring all the necessary pharmaceuticals to start his own cottage industry. But, because he's a good guy, he also plays Teen Therapist to his classmates, and brings them the drugs that will help them with their issues. Hope Davis, Robert Downey Jr. and Kat Dennings also star.

Our Shirley Sealy finds the whole thing a little disturbing-- "Is it really okay, even in fun, to tell our kids that in today's world everybody is screwed up, so go ahead and do whatever it takes to get through the day?" But most critics went along with the comedy. "The makers maintain a comic touch, preferring keen observation and even irony to cynicism and despair," writes The Hollywood Reporter. And Rex Reed at The New York Observer compares the whole thing to that other witty teen comedy, Juno: "Laugh-out-loud funny and served by a perfect gang of appealing, mischievous collaborators." But Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly calls it an "antic yet bland comedy," and The Washington Post complains, "The movie feels forced, cliched and derivative.

Beking BE KIND REWIND. Opening in 808 theatres. Michel Gondry's latest exercise in whimsy takes place in a rundown video store in rundown Passaic, New Jersey. Mike (Mos Def) is just trying to make a living at the store, while his friend Jerry (Jack Black) has a vendetta against the local electricity company, which results in his brain being magnetized. Jerry accidentally erases all the tapes in the store, so he and Mike come up with a plan-- they'll remake all the movies on their own. Melonie Diaz, Mia Farrow and Danny Glover also star.

I feel a little excessive in my love for this shaggy-dog movie, but at least I'm, for the most part, not alone. Our Kevin Lally loved it, crediting the film's "childlike, DIY approach to moviemaking that beguiles as it astonishes." A.O. Scott wrote an elegant review that I love almost as much as I loved the film itself; "It treats movies as found objects, as material to be messed around with, explored and reimagined," he writes. "It's inviting, undemanding and altogether wonderful." The Village Voice overthinks the whole thing a little bit, comparing it to 1960s Cuban cinema, but also pauses to credit Black's performance: "He's a fully developed comic presence�quick-witted yet stupid, charmingly obnoxious, expansively sarcastic." But a number of other critics weren't feeling so kind. "Every minute of Gondry's film is irrefutable proof that charm is not enough," scowl's The New Yorker's Anthony Lane, who concludes, "Be kind. Erase." Peter Travers at Rolling Stone is a little happier with the results, but notes, "Gondry, as writer and director, can't stop the creative helium from leaking out of his cinematic balloon."

Witlessprotectionposter WITLESS PROTECTION. Opening in 1,333 theatres. This movie, starring Larry the Cable Guy, was not screened for critics. Shocker.