Academy nominations stay truer to form even than usual

In a funny way, the most surprising thing about this year’s batch of Academy Award nominations was how strongly they stayed true to Oscar’s long-held habits — even a Film Drunk could see it this year. At least in terms of sheer numbers of nominations, the Academy was most generous to a historical/inspirational costume drama from England over a somewhat edgier and less traditionally fashioned tale ripped from today’s business headlines.

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The King’s Speech” led the nominations with 12, followed by “True Grit” with 10, and just eight for “The Social Network” — still very much the front-runner in my opinion — and “Inception.” Though Anne Thompson sees the momentum shifting in a more royal direction, I think it’s a big mistake this time around to read too much into sheer quantity. For example, I would be surprised to see a huge number of non-“technical” awards for “True Grit” or “Inception.” (Roger Deakins’ “True Grit” cinematography and the amazing effects of Christopher Nolan’s team being very likely winners).

Considering where most of the awards have gone so far, the only thing really going for “The King’s Speech” and against the previously prohibitive favorite, “The Social Network,” is aforementioned traditional Oscar genre prejudices and the inevitable backlash most highly acclaimed and award winnings films get. However, outside of infantile attention-hog critic Armond White, I actually haven’t noticed a huge anti-“Network” backlash though there were some off-target feminist complaints. (A movie about an almost literal boys’ club is going to depict a boys’ club atmosphere.) In any case, the rather enormous and still ongoing on- and off-line backlashes against “American Beauty,” “Crash” and “Titanic” clearly didn’t hurt those films’ Oscar prospects one bit.

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“Take us to your prexy!,” another “Battle: Los Angeles” trailer

Could the aliens really be…critics from outer space! In any case, watch my hometown and birthplace get the kind of treatment that even Armond White might think twice about meting out.

H/t Steven Zeitchik.

  

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“Being middle-aged and all takes up most of your time, doesn’t it?”

With Emmy news immanent and various television items kind of sucking up all the oxygen, it’s a pretty slow day for movie news, give or take an item about a movie Denzel Washington is “looking” to be in or some critical meta-gazing on the ever-bashable Armond White.

Nevertheless, today just happens to be 70th birthday of young Ringo Starr. Joke all you want but, his hugely considerable skills as a drummer and all-around musician aside, Ringo was always the best acting Beatle. With his comically melancholy mien, he was something of a natural but apparently just kind of got bored with it. That’s a shame, but we’ll always have Ringo’s performance in the centerpiece of the most influential rock and roll film ever made.

  

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“Alice” gets its three-peat, but it’s an upset at #2 for a “Wimpy Kid”

If anyone out there still doubts that family films are the surest path to box office glory, this weekend should be a stark reminder of that fact. The ongoing 3-D premium ticket price-boosted power of “Alice in Wonderland” once again nailed the #1 spot for Disney, and a very healthy estimate of $34.5 million in its third week.

That’s not all. Against some theoretically stiff, star-driven competition, our #2 film turns out to be a lowish budget, live-action version of a series of young adult comic books with no spectacular effects and no superstars — though young Chloe Moretz of “Kick-Ass” might be one fairly shortly. “Diary of Wimpy Kid” nailed an estimated $21.8 million for Fox on the strength of what appears to be a lot of kid-friendly low comedy.

It was perhaps a slightly humiliating result for the film that was supposed to be the #2 film this weekend. As we discussed last time, “The Bounty Hunter” benefits from two big stars and a strong ad campaign. Still, it’s terrible reviews appear to have been an indication of something other than a bunch of effete, “irrelevant” snobs who don’t know how to have fun or something. It’s just possible that “regular people” aren’t enjoying it much more than critics did.

Nevertheless, the action-oriented rom-com did hit the low end of expectations with an estimated $21 million. That’s close enough that it’s not impossible that the “actuals” could actually change the rankings when they come out. My hunch, however, is that, if they’re different, they’ll be different in the disfavor of “Bounty Hunter.” In any case, they can’t undo the reality that “Wimpy Kid” has already made an amount exceeding its budget ($15 million according to Box Office Mojo; $19 million according to Nikki Finke). At $40 million, “The Bounty Hunter” is not an expensive movie by Hollywood standards, but it took the very expensive marketing equivalent of carpet bombing to not beat the arguably under-promoted family film for the #3 spot.

Jude Law and Forest Whitaker face the abyssStill, if “The Bounty Hunter” was stung, the oddly topical “Repo Men” got its internal organs ripped out with an extremely poor fourth place estimate of about $6.15 million.  It’s yet another fiscal setback for Universal despite an instantly understandable premise and lots of advertising and marketing. My hunch here is that the action audience is not as hungry for straight-up gore as the horror audience. Also, its marketing seems muddled in terms of whether it was trying to sell it as a straight-up science fiction action film despite an inherently satirical premise. “Repo Men” seems to have pleased fairly few in the process but, by the numbers, its reviews were more than twice as good as for “The Bounty Hunter” for what that’s worth.

This week’s box office winner in terms of per-screen averages is the comedy-drama from Noah Baumbach, “Greenberg.” Though only playing on three screens, the film managed a terrific $120,000 for Focus Features. It benefits from an unusually big star for a limited release in Ben Stiller, not to mention sexy/likable possible-superstar-to-be Greta Gerwig in the female lead, and a writer-director who is a known quantity to the indie-audience thanks to his success with “The Squid and the Whale” and his association with Wes Anderson. Considering the plugged-in nature of the audience in New York and Los Angeles that tends to goes to indie films on opening weekends, it’s also tempting to wonder if the controversy, which I’ve been personally guilty of promoting, around critic Armond White’s beyond-over-the-top personal hatred for Noah Baumbach and, more to the point, for Baumbach’s ex-film critic mother, might have boosted interest just a touch. We’ll see what happens when “Greenberg” goes wider next week.

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A movie news midnight ramble.

It’s a bit late for a Friday night news dump –and most all of  you will be reading this on Saturday morning — but here’s the news…

* Chris Evans has been offered the part of Captain America, but will he accept?

* Christopher Nolan’s multi-star Philip Dick-esque new movie is generating interesting, of course.

* That word about Tim Burton doing an stop-motion version of “The Addams Family” going back to the characters’ cartoon roots struck me as a perfectly reasonable idea. Charles Addams brilliant cartoons have never really be transferred to the screen in quite the fashion they deserve, so why not take another whack, says me. I any case, the whole story appears to be premature.

adams2* Demi Moore and Nia Vardalos: Twitter heroines.

* Friday’s over now. Is Leo the Lion closer to having a new tamer?

* Speaking of lion tamers, Carl Icahn is at the Lion’s gate. (Sorry.)

* Wow, Jeff Bridges was really a lock for the Oscar. George Clooney did his classy Cary Grant thing again and voted for him. Weirdly enough, much as I just about worship Bridges, I actually think Clooney was better in his nominated role than Bridges in his.

* Christoph Waltz wowed the world as Col. Landa, but what he really wants to do, aside from being America’s new go-to bad guy, is direct, at least once. Good for him for striking while the iron is hot, and it’s very hot for him.

* Woody Allen is having second thoughts, it appears, about casting France’s first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, in his new movie.

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* The ultra-hawkish rightwing’s answer to having more successful political thrillers is apparently the same as their longstanding and unchanging prescription for foreign policy: more mindless brutality, please. On the other hand, I might pay to see Gene Simmons’ head explode in a ball of flame, though I’m not advocating it.

* Which is not to say there aren’t some conservatives who don’t have something to teach us liberals. The subtly and thoughtfully right-leaning cinephile Bill Ryan, via Dennis the C,  takes apart the latest highly irritaining controversy involving the always irritaining Armond White.

* I can’t say I actually know the man really at all, but film distributor turned filmmaker turned back to film distributor Jeff Lipsky and I have a bit of history (discussed in my interview with him from 2007). His thoughts on returning to the biz are some interesting inside baseball and most of them seem to make a fair amount of sense.  His movie love is sincere, even as his tastes are quite different than mine. And it’s interesting and hopeful to see an Indie guy still excited about theatrical filmgoing. But why on earth does he feel the need to single out the aforementioned Armond White for praise? I could go on…

  

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