Midweekish movie news

It’s oh so late (or early) as I write this, but let’s see how much I can cover before my very late dinner and maybe a cocktail.

* I woke up to this morning the realization that Netflix has become a liberal cause celebre. It has to do with Comcast attempting to charge Level 3, a provider of Netflix’s streaming, a fee which the company says would effectively block access by cable companies to the interwebs and threaten the net neutrality that allows a site like this one to be readily usable. Brian Stetler at NYT has the details.

* Not sure how the Deadline team got scooped on this, but some lesser known sites have word that Tom Hanks‘ next acting gig, after wrapping directing duties on the upcoming “Larry Crowne,” will be in the new drama from the team that brought us “The Hurt Locker,” writer Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow. It’s the Latin America set “Triple Frontier.”

* Two categories of people get to say exactly what they want: the elderly and universally beloved film stars who took a creative risk and essentially made a franchise. Johnny Depp isn’t quite yet at the early bird dinner stage of his life, but he had some interesting things to say about Disney executives’ initial reaction to his Jack Sparrow — really, the only thing I ever liked about the “Pirates of the Carribean” franchise, other than the ride. They hated Depp’s performance, and for some rather disturbing juvenile reasons.

Johnny Depp runs for his life

* Nikki Finke claimed her “toldja” this morning over the actually really smart choice of having this year’s Oscar telecast hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Both clearly have comedy chops, Hathaway can sing, as she showed a couple of years back during the “Frost/Nixon” gag in Hugh Jackman’s opening number, and best of all, they’re not satirists like Jon Stewart and Chris Rock and therefore probably won’t perturb Hollywood’s well-manicured egos. The egos must, above all, be maintained. (H/t Anne Thompson for the Jackman vid.)

* The Independent Spirit Award nominations were announced today. Not too surprisingly, some of the biggest nominees were “127 Hours,” “The Black Swan,” “Greenberg,” “The Kids Are All Right,” (directed by Lisa Chodelenko, interviewed here by Ross Ruediger) “Rabbit Hole,” and “Winter’s Bone,” which already collected some Gotham Awards a day or so back.

* I’m sure the role of the U.S. Secretary of State in “X-Men: First Class” isn’t huge, but anything that keeps Ray Wise onscreen, where he belongs, works for me.

* RIP director Mario Monicelli, who passed on a day or so back at age 95. I have no excuse for having never seen “Big Deal on Madonna Street,” I fear.

Okay, that’s all for tonight. The gods of sleep and hunger have just about claimed me.

  

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“Precious” tops the Indie Spirits

Gabourey Sidibe is Precious

This hasn’t been a very good year for people who like awards surprises. And, so, this year’s most high profile indie film, say it with me — “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” —  has won the lion’s share of the more high-profile awards at Film Independent’s Independent Spirit Awards, this year hosted by Eddie Izzard.

To be specific, “Precious” nabbed “Best Feature” from a field that included the very popular “(500) Days of Summer,” Berkeley-bred Cary Joji Fukunaga’s surprisingly assured directorial debut, “Sin Nombre,” and “The Last Station.” Director Lee Daniels, whose work on “Precious” has been the single most criticized aspect of the somewhat controversial film, nevertheless beat the Coen Brothers work on “A Serious Man,” Fukunaga, James Gray of “Two Lovers,” and Michael Hoffman of “The Last Station.” “Precious” also took the Best First Screenplay. The best not-first screenplay went to Scott Neustader and Michael H. Weber of “(500) Days.”

In the acting categories, Gabourey Sidibe received the Best Female Lead for playing Precious herself and, naturally, Mo’Nique proved to own her category fully across all award shows and won the Best Supporting Female category. Among the males, Jeff Bridges, took the Best Male Lead award that is deemed pretty much his due this year for the country music drama, “Crazy Heart.”

Since the $40 million dollar budget of “Inglourious Basterds” presumably put it beyond the realm of the Spirits, Christoph Waltz was not nominated for Best Supporting Male. Instead, he cut a deal in which he collected the award anyway in return for helping the show to end early. Just kidding. Woody Harrelson in his non-zombie-thwacking mode took the award for his work in the low-key stateside wartime drama, “The Messenger.” (My sympathies to Christian McKay of “Me and Orson Welles” — so much critical praise and so few awards even when this year’s male 500 pound gorilla is safely out of the room.)

Anvil! The Story of AnvilBest Foreign Film went to a film that doesn’t feel so foreign now that England is our 52nd state, “An Education.”  Best Documentary went to one some of you might actually have seen and found fun rather than upsetting, “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” defeated a list that included the highly praised “Food, Inc.” (For whatever reason, “The Cove” was not nominated.) Roger Deakins took the cinematography award for “A Serious Man.”

Among the special awards, the John Cassevettes Award, which goes to a film with a budget of less than $500,000, went to a favorite around these parts, Lynn Shelton’s “Humpday,” edging out another film we’ve kind of taken to our breast here, “Big Fan.” The latter film looked, literally, like a million dollars to me, so kudos to the penny-saving producers on that one. “A Serious Man” won the Robert Altman award for its acting ensemble.

You can see a complete list of nominees and winners here. You can also check and see if Indiewire ever corrects their typos here.

  

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Movie loving movie moments, Pt. 1

For numerous reasons, I haven’t had time to give certain movie news items their due this week, like the inevitable lawsuit that accompanies any unexpectedly successful film and countless items about who’s going to be in which movie (maybe), or how every single movie will be in 3-D or whatever.

But here’s the thing, I’ve been through a lot this past month or so (though things seem to be resolving themselves nicely, thank you), the Oscars are coming and for numerous reasons, I’m behind on my movie going and badly in need of a shot or two or three of movie love.

I may acknowledge the results of the very important Independent Spirit Awards tomorrow morning — a bit begrudgingly since Film Independent teased me by sending me an application and then rejecting me as not quite important enough to attend. However, as far as my other daily blog posts are otherwise concerned for the next two days as I prepare for the closest thing this non-sports-fan has to a superbowl, they are going to be little shots of film love. Nothing but clips that will remind me why I love movies and maybe draw you in a bit too.

So, why do I love movies, well, for starters there’s violence.

And where there’s violence, there must also be a little sex.

More to come.

  

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High school video class tops award-nominated “(500) Days”

This is circulating pretty quickly around the ‘net, but deservedly so. As part of a “lip dub” video competition — in my day we called it “lip-synch”! — between two Seattle-area high schools, video teacher Marty Ballew, his class, student director Javier Caceres, and what appears to be most of the Shorewood High student body, created a music video possibly inspired by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s post-coital walk-of-pride in “(500) Days of Summer.” Or, possibly not, it’s not like writer-director Marc Webb, whose film is nominated for two Golden Globes and three Independent Spirit Awards, has some kind of ownership of the Hall & Oates catalog and the scenes are fairly different.  (I’m sure proud parents will have to take comfort from the fact that it’s extremely unlikely the entire Shorewood student body had sex just prior to shooting, though with these kids today, how can you be sure?)

In any case, Mr. Ballew, young Mr. Caceres, and company left Webb in the dust, shooting their musical sequence backwards, which meant the kids had to learn the lyrics that way as well, and — even better — in a single take of 4:22. Shooting musical sequences using long takes, once the standard, now borders on being a lost art, just ask ADHD musical maestros Rob Marshall (“Nine”) or Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”). Doing it backwards has to increase the difficulty level considerably, though with great results, as you’ll see. Maybe we should send some grown-up directors back to high school for some remedial production classes.

For comparison, here’s the sequence from “(500) Days of Summer.”

Okay, it’s not bad — it might even be called “good,” but it’s not Mr. Ballew’s video production 1 class Shorewood High good.

Via Cinematical.

  

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Indie awards, viscera in your lap, and the boredom of Alec

* If you’re looking for any clear Oscar indications from today’s indie awards news, you might want to look elsewhere. “Precious” and “The Last Station” — which I’ve been reading very mixed things about so far — were among the films to make a nominations splash with The Independent Spirit Awards.  Meanwhile, the Gotham Awards were held last night and “The Hurt Locker” “swept” things — well, it won two big awards including Best Picture. Close enough. (Kathryn Bigelow’s wartime thriller, a favorite of many, was not eligible for the Spirit Awards this year, but only got a pair of acting nominations last year.)

* There’s something in the air about gross-outs in 3-D today. First, comes news that sequels to both “Zombieland” and, lord help us all, “Jackass,” are planned in the suddenly semi-ubiquitous format because what the world needs now is projectile cow semen in three dimensions. That’s not all, a new remake of George Romero’s seminal “Night of the Living Dead” will be in 3-D digital animation, which actually renders things less gross and scary — to me, anyhow and that’s just fine for this disliker of gross-outs.

By the way, this is will be the third remake of the film and the second in 3-D, though the 2006 attempt seems a bit less classy. I actually like the idea of taking an epic tack with a variation of the original film, but I just hope Romero gets at least a small piece of the action. (In one of the strangest foul-ups in movie history, the original flesh-eating zombie flick fell into the public domain back in 1968. So, anyone who wants to may legally do their own rip-off.)

Meanwhile, jolly Carl DiOrio is here to tell us that the growth of 3-D films will be gradual and mostly limited to genre and concert films for the time being. Good to know.

* Domestic b.o. is up by 8%, and the really good news is that b.o. is short for “box office.”

* Paul Greengrass confirms his “Bourne 4” directorial exit as reported yesterday, but says the divorce is highly amicable, though the fate of the project seems in doubt and, yeah, I’m not sure we really need a fourth outing, either. On the other hand, Bourne fans can protect themselves against speedy video obsolescence on the three films already out early next year. Here come: “flipper discs.”

* Say it ain’t so, Alec Baldwin, say it ain’t so! You may be bored, but we are so not.

  

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