Oscar madness kicks into high gear at the DGA and SNL

People who want a real Academy Award horse-race got probably the best possible news last night at the Director’s Guild Awards. As you’ll no doubt be hearing many, many times over the next month or so, the DGA Award for Best Director and the Oscar for Best Director have only not lined up six times in the history of both awards. Also, of course, the directorial Oscar and the Best Picture Oscar often tend to correlate as well because, sometimes rightly but occasionally wrongly, most of the credit for a good movie tends to go to the director.

Those who remained confident that “The Social Network” remained the favorite for an Oscar sweep despite it getting beaten out in the number of Oscar nominations by two films, were given a sharp jolt because the winner last night was not David Fincher, but the extremely talented fact-based-drama specialist Tom Hooper of “The King’s Speech.” Count me among the surprised.

I’ll save for later why I still think the Oscars’ are either movie’s ball game or could easily be a sort split decision. However, in an amusing not quite coincidence, “Social Network” star and Oscar nominee Jessie Eisenberg had a small surprise of his own to reveal as he hosted “Saturday Night Live” last night.

Let’s see Colin Firth pull that off with King George VI. Also, Mark Zuckerberg can’t complain that he was misrepresented in terms of height, at least. H/t Nikki Finke.

The winner in the best documentary DGA category, by the way, was Charles Ferguson of the hugely acclaimed “Inside Job” which might actually guarantee that it won’t win the Best Documentary Oscar, because that’s the way the documentary category often rolls. We’ll see. For you TV fans, I’ll post/paste the complete list of DGA Awards (nice wins for Mick Jackson and Martin Scorsese,) after the flip.

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Kristen Wiig follow-up: SNL got the memo

If you type “Kristen Wiig sucks” into Google, the very first link you will see is to a piece I wrote. I am not proud of this.

Here’s the back story: in February of last year, I wrote a rant where I complained about the overexposure of Wiig, who was at one time my favorite new “SNL” cast member. But the exposure itself wasn’t the problem – it was Wiig’s tendency to play characters that, if they showed up at a party you were at, you would leave the party. She never played anyone sweet, or friendly, or even just strange. Her characters all had one thing in common: they were incredibly annoying. And they were in every other skit. I’d had enough, and so I posted “Memo to Saturday Night Live: Kristen Wiig must be stopped.” I wish I had posted that one to Reddit. It would have been huge, though at 162 comments and counting (they’re still coming in, 21 months later), it is easily the biggest response we’ve gotten to anything posted on this site, though John Paulsen’s companion piece, “Gilly: The unfunniest returning SNL character…ever,” is not far behind.

And that’s why I feel so awful. I never intended to be the lightning rod for the ‘Kristen Wiig sucks’ movement, because she doesn’t suck. She’s actually very talented, but has a weakness for playing obnoxious people. But silly me, I should have known that the commenters of the world would not have been as level-headed in their remarks as I attempted to be in my piece. The first wave of comments were all pro-Kristen, telling me I didn’t “get” her (one of my favorite comment cliches, because it’s mostly used when there’s nothing to “get”) or that I had no sense of humor. Slowly, though, people started rallying in my defense, and now, well, it’s a bloodbath. One commenter even said, “I typed ‘Kristen Wiig sucks’ into Google, found this piece.” My first reaction to that was, “Wow, I wish I had the free time to do that.” My second reaction was, “Shit. This is not what I wanted.” All I wanted was for the show to have more balance, and for Wiig to tone down the ‘does it offend you, yeah’ factor to her characters. Bring the “Two A-Holes” skit back, or have her do more impressions (she does a dead perfect Bjork).

Well, she’s still not doing impressions – and the “Two A-Holes” skits remain inexplicably shelved – but it appears that my other prayers have been answered this season. I just watched the episode that Scarlett Johannson hosted, and Kristen had one lead skit (the one-upping Penelope). One. In everything else, she was a co-lead or not in the scene at all, and for me, it made for a much more enjoyable viewing experience, especially since it opens up space for “The Miley Cyrus Show” (my new favorite recurring skit) and Jay Pharoah, who’s got ‘breakout star’ written all over him. If I’m lucky, I’ll never have to see another skit featuring Jamie Lee Curtis, Kathi Lee Gifford, the woman who can’t keep a secret, and if I’m really lucky, this woman.

Man, is she painful to watch. Ha ha, let’s laugh at the cripple. Jesus.

So thank you, “Saturday Night Live,” for righting the ship. You are now a hundred times more watchable than you were just a few months ago. And Kristen, I’m sorry that my piece became the sounding board for some malicious comments. I just wanted my TV to be more funny. And now it is. Ahhhhhh.

  

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Midweek movie news

You’d think Jewish New Year and Labor Day coming so close together would slow down the pace of movie news a little, but leisure is for suckers and Yahweh is just another bit player in this hard luck town.

* The talk of the geek-o-sphere for some time is going to be the announcement of a massive and potentially trendsetting film/television cross-over adaptation of Stephen King’s multi-volume “The Dark Tower” mega-epic. Universal, which has had some very tough times lately, is taking what I’m guessing could be a make-it-or-break-it gamble on the project, the news of which was broken by Mike Fleming earlier.  I’m not a King reader, but I am intrigued by the fact that it’s a western-science fiction-horror cross-breed. In any case apparently the plan is to start with a movie, go to a 22 episode not-so-mini-series, and then onto another movie, another series, then wrapping it all up with movie. The idea being to provide fans with both the grandeur of theatrical films and the detail and time of a television series.

the_dark_tower

It’s intriguing but laden with potential pitfalls. One is that it demands an awful lot of time and people who aren’t following the series may feel shut out of the latter two movies. The other is that, quite frankly, I feel the “A Dangerous Mind” creative team of director Ron Howard and writer Akiva Goldsman — who I gather will be writing and directing the first two films and the entire first series at least, which could be some kind of record if that’s what’s really going to happen — simply haven’t indicated they’re up to this kind of material. I hate to say it but winning Oscars can be negative indicator sometimes.

It’s not that I doubt their ability to crank it all out. Howard is obviously a very competent director who knows how to make highly professional material and I have tremendous respect for him as an individual and one of the more positive forces in Big Moviedom. However, he’s always shown a tendency to play it safe and often a bit dull when the chips are really down creatively as a director and none of Goldsman’s movies have been all that inspiring to me either. All I’m saying is that I had a good feeling about Peter Jackson taking on “The Lord of the Rings” and I have a bad feeling about it, though I’d seriously love to be wrong.  Something tells me this project needs a real lunatic and Ron Howard is one of the sanest guys in show business. Huge King fan Quint at AICN has similar misgivings. He has a more riding on this than I.

* Simon Abrams is right re: “Kick-Ass” doing a lot better than people assumed. Even though I cover the weekend grosses here, we all make way too much of those openings and fail to look at the overall picture. Calling a movie a bomb that makes nearly half its budget in its opening weekend is just idiotic anyhow. The actual success of the film may have figured in the ongoing financial struggles between Lionsgate and Carl Icahn.

Aaron Johnson is

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A slightly lighter than usual end of week movie news dump

Well, at least I hope can get this done nice and quick because I’m really looking forward to making a Manhattan very soon. Forgive me if I miss something huge.

* As per Nikki Finke, the early box office returns for “Inception” are looking good.

* Though I was a big fan of “The West Wing” while he worked on it, my one complaint with Aaron Sorkin’s abandoned TV classic was that it was a bit rosy in how it viewed politics and politicians. Currently flying high as the screenwriter of the upcoming docudramas, “The Social Network” and “Moneyball,” he was almost the Gene Roddenberry of political drama in imagining a relatively ideal world that could be, but probably never would be. I don’t think excess positivity is going to be an issue in his movie directorial debut, as he’ll be covering the John Edwards mega-debacle. To think I contemplated voting for/volunteering for the egocentric jerkwad who, had he succeeded, would have sunk a party and a nation on the altar of his ego.

John-Edwards-NYC

* I don’t think I’ll really know what I think of Ryan Reynolds’ CGI-aided Green Lantern costume until I see it in the movie.

* Things have been hopping over at our sister site, Bullz-Eye.com. Earlier in the week Will Harris, with a little assistance from one or two other people who will remain nameless, took a look at 25 cinematic swan songs from film acting greats. Very cool (except for seven of them, which I’m unable to judge). Also, today, Will had a chat with his friend and rising young star, Dileep Rao, currently being seen in “Inception.”

* There may be no justice in the world, but Roman Polanski’s next movie is already being prepped, and it sounds good. It’s the film version of the London/Broadway hit play “God of Carnage.” Being as it’s a dark comedy/drama, it sounds right up Polanski’s alley. Also, Polanski’s 1994 film version of Ariel Dorfman’s “Death and the Maiden” was one of the most seamless stage-to-film translations I’ve ever seen.

* My high school history teacher, who was also a saxophone playing jazz fan on the side, always used to say that of all the rock music figures, the one he was sure wouldn’t last beyond another couple of decades in terms of popularity was Janis Joplin. Her super-gritty style was just too of the late sixties moment, he theorized. Indeed, she seems to be one of the less popular of the rock superstars of that era today. Well, director Fernando Meirelles of “City of God” and Amy Adams — a top-flight actress who is way cute to be playing the weather-worn Joplin  — will be hoping to disprove that theory with a new biopic.

* Okay, so we’ve got “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” so why not Cain and Abel with Vampires (and Will Smith)?

* I like the sound of this: Stanley Tucci, who obviously gets along very well with Meryl Streep, will direct her and Tina Fey in a mother daughter comedy.

Grindhouse
* The Playlist apparently wants to make me happy. First, they report that the long-awaited DVD of the pre-prepared exploitation double-bill, “Grindhouse,” as it was originally presented in theaters is coming this October. Second, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is apparently planning to appear in some kind of a musical. Interesting.

I’m just annoyed that I missed his rendition of the Donald O’Connor “Make ‘Em Laugh” number from “Singin’ in the Rain” on SNL last year and it’s gone from Hulu for some reason. Moment of rank and utterly baseless speculation here: Could a team-up with fellow three-namer Neil Patrick Harris be in the cards? “Dr. Horrible and Dr. Horribler” perhaps? Forget I said that.

  

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Hey, I’m back, sort of, with weekend box office results

I’m still keeping busy and enjoying the tail end of the Los Angeles Film Festival, which wraps in just a couple of hours, but I thought I’d see how quickly I can give you all at least some of this weekend’s genuinely fascinating box office results as gleaned from both Anne Thompson and Nikki Finke.

Toy Story 3

Well, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Pixar formula — i.e., dollops of laughter and heart (what a concept!) and now a dash of 3-D ticket prices — has once again worked wonders and “Toy Story 3” took on all comers, earning an estimated $59 million for Disney in its second weekend. Meanwhile, it was also a good weekend for the eternal appeal of low humor and, it seems Adam Sandler, at least when accompanied by four other comic known quantities of varying degrees of box office hotness. It was clear that the scatological-joke loving masses were only encouraged by, I’m guessing, entirely correct godawful reviews of Sony’s “Grown-Ups.”

Perhaps also reflecting a dearth of comedy right now, the film actually was a personal box office best — not adjusted for inflation — for Sandler, earning $41 million. Personally, though I like him in actual quality films like the, I think, severely underrated “Funny People” and the brilliant “Punch Drunk Love,” I’ve never gotten the comic appeal of Sandler, going back to his SNL days, and can’t even remember gong through a phase where I found farts inherently hysterical, so I can only throw up my hands here.

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in
On the other hand, there is little joy in the five or six buildings the Church of Scientology owns on Hollywood Blvd, as the Tom Cruise (and Cameron Diaz) action comedy vehicle, “Knight and Day” earned an estimated $27.7 million. Not bad, actually, except considering Cruise’s far better past performances back in the day when stars like him could routinely “open” a film and, according to Finke, the budget for the film was either roughly $117 or $107 million, depending on whether you calculate tax breaks. In other words, Cruise’s thetans might take longer to clear.

In other news, I’m happy to say, that things are hopping on the indie scene. The new wartime documentary “Restrepo” and the Duplass Brother’s enjoyable entry into the semi-mainstream, “Cyrus,” are both doing quite well, as are other newish films.

On the other hand, the controversially violent “The Killer Inside Me” appears to be suffering, perhaps, from an older indie audience that might be turned off by the fuss, which some say has been exaggerated to a certain degree and appears to have surprised its skilled, if highly uneven, director Michael Winterbottom. Interesting how an adaptation of a once obscure fifty-eight year old pulp novel can still raise hackles. Also shows that while a perception of too-little blood and guts can harm a horror film, a perception of too much can perhaps harm even a “hard R” thriller/drama. Advice to the suits: know your audience.

As usual, Indiewire has the indie scoop.

  

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