Tag: American Beauty

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.

academy-awards

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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Tuesday night at the movies

A busy day in tinseltown, but I’ve got to keep things brief tonight.

Spiderman* Nikki Finke is breaking the story that “Spiderman 4” is on hold due to script problems. In other words, Sam Raimi supposedly “hates” the screenplay a large of number of screenwriting cooks have been preparing.  The latest to get his hands on the script is screenwriting standby Alvin Sargent, who worked at the past two Spidey movies and is, at 82, probably by far the most senior fellow writing comic book movies these days. And, oh yeah, it might be in 3-D.

* In another scoop for the Finkster, she reports that underage It-boy Taylor Lautner is Hollywood best compensated teen and now being paid “per ab,” though he apparently has half an ab. I wonder if I get figure out a way to get paid per nose hair.

* Anne Thompson reports that Sam Mendes is “in talks” to direct the next James Bond movie. This would be a major change of pace for the director best known for the Oscar-winning, cinephile-derided, “American Beauty” and “Road to Perdition,” whose attempt at an indie dramedy, “Away We Go,” failed to set the world on fire last year.

* T-Bone Burnett, a superb musician and record producer who has found his greatest fame working on “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” and pretty much every major film with a country music/Americana aspect to it, tells Kim Masters a moving story about how the late musician Stephen Brutan influenced the filming of “Crazy Heart” with Jeff Bridges.

* And how can we get through a day without mentioning “Avatar“? If you’ve been wondering how the Na’vi nasty is done, you’ll get some “soft R” clues, I’m guessing, on the special edition DVD. That’s the word from Huffington Post. I guess we’ll have to wait longer to have 3-D big screen alien-sex.

* On a vastly more serious “Avatar” related note, the Washington Post reports that James Cameron is openly considering making a hard-hitting film about nuclear weapons and traveled to Japan — the only country to ever be attacked with nuclear weapons — to start researching it last month. This is the kind of film you can make with a major studio after you have the kind of monster hit Cameron appears to have on his hands.

As for the research, not all of us are able to talk to survivors of the blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki — I actually have, in another life, and consider myself lucky for having done so. If you’ve never read John Hersey’s Hiroshima, however, you should. The world might not be under constant threat of annihilation as it was up from the fifities to the late eighties, but nuclear weapons remain a serious threat. ‘Still, I’m sure Fox would be just as happy if Cameron decided to make “True Lies II.”

* It’s a big day for octogenarians breaking stereotypes just a bit. Christopher Lee is continuing his exploration of “orchestral metal.” I hope you enjoy his new direction.

* The Premium Hollywood/Bullz-Eye gang is quickly dividing into Blu-Ray “haves” and “have nots.” For the benefit of the “haves,” (a group that does not include me) Glenn Kenny recounts his favorite BR discs of 2009.

Seven shows that just don’t get enough love

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to put together a list of my favorite television moments before the end of 2008, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the tube. (Come to think of it, maybe my television addiction was the reason I didn’t have the free time to write about the best of 2008. Hmm.)

Anyway, here is a list of seven terrific shows that seem to be flying under the proverbial radar.

1. “True Blood” (HBO)
Alan Ball, the writer of “American Beauty” and the creator of “Six Feet Under,” brings us a series based on vampires in the Deep South. The series is based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series of books and stars Anna Paquin — whom I argued, under the moniker of Eli Cash a few years back, would have made a better Penny Lane than Kate Hudson — as a mind-reading waitress in a small town in Louisiana. The first season was excellent, though it got off to a bit of a slow start. Paquin is the key, but her best friend Tara (played by Rutina Wesley) often steals the show.

2. “Dexter” (Showtime)
Everyone’s favorite serial killer is back for a third season. Dexter Morgan works for the Miami Police Department as a blood splatter analyst and he spends his night hunting and killing the worst criminals in South Florida. This series has been excellent from the start, and shows no signs of slowing down. This season brought in Jimmy Smits as an Assistant District Attorney with a serious dark side. After “Six Feet Under,” I thought I’d always see Michael C. Hall as the openly gay David Fisher, but now I can’t imagine him as anyone other than the dark and secretive Dexter.

3. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (FX)
Maybe this show just too crass to be mainstream, and thinking about it, that’s probably what makes it so great. “Sunny” really hit its stride in the third season, and the fourth season was even better. The show follows a group of friends (and Danny DeVito) that own a bar in Philadelphia. Every episode has its own completely ridiculous premise, but once you accept that every single character is a selfish, narcissistic moron, it becomes that much funnier. As far as sitcoms go, for me, the excellent fourth season put it in the same tier as “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “Weeds” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and that’s some good company.

4. “Summer Heights High” (HBO)
Anyone who dug the U.K. version of “The Office” should check this series out. It’s an Australian mockumentary that follows three characters — the effeminate drama teacher Mr. G, the snotty private school transfer Ja’mie and the disruptive Tongan student Jonah — which are all played by the same actor, writer/creator Chris Lilley. Watching a grown man run around in a school dress is ridiculous, but that’s part of the fun. Lilley is extremely talented; it can’t be easy to morph into three very different characters every week. The humor is outrageous and the situations (especially involving the clueless Mr. G) can be David Brent-type awkward.

5. “Supernatural” (CW)
This sci-fi/fantasy series started off in typical “freak of the week” fashion with a different monster to defeat each week, but as it got into its third season, it really developed some serious, serialized chops. Now in its fourth year, the show continues to follow two brothers who are “hunters,” i.e. they fight all manner of evil — demons, vampires, ghosts, etc. Even in its first year, the show held my attention, but with all the happenings of the last two seasons, new episodes don’t sit on my TiVo for very long. Viewers who like sci-fi/fantasy should definitely check out “Supernatural.”

6. “The Unit” (CBS)
I think a lot of people write off “The Unit” as a typical CBS show like “CSI” or “NCIS” (or some other acronym), but as the show as worn on, it’s simply gotten better and better. The subject matter is ripe with storylines; the show follows members of a Special Forces unit (led by super-badass Jonas Blane, played wonderfully by Dennis Haysbert) and their families. A quick look at the production staff reveals a couple of big names — David Mamet (“The Untouchables,” “Glengarry Glen Ross”) and Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) — that instantly give the show some serious credibility. Early on, the series could get a little “hooah!” and focus on the wives a bit too much, but the later seasons have struck the perfect balance between the professional and the personal.

7. “Brotherhood” (Showtime)
It doesn’t have as high of a profile as “The Sopranos” and maybe it’s not as addicting, but “Brotherhood” has the same feel and the same quality of writing. It follows two brothers in Providence, Rhode Island. One is a corrupt state congressman trying to do right by his family and the other is deeply involved in organized crime. Those that miss “The Sopranos” or “The Wire” should definitely rent the first season of “Brotherhood.”

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