Latest Blog Posts

Oscar Talk: Ep. 105 -- Affleck wins another and the nominees do lunch

Oscar Talk: Ep. 105 -- Affleck wins another and the nominees do lunch

Also: Digging into the visual effects and animated categories

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

Read Full Post
<p>Anthony Hopkins and Scarlett Johansson in &quot;Hitchcock&quot;</p>

Anthony Hopkins and Scarlett Johansson in "Hitchcock"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Oscar Guide: 2013: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

'Hitchcock,' 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' and 'Les Misérables' square off

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film.  A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)

The first year of “Best Makeup and Hairstyling” doesn’t suggest much has changed in this category with the hairstylists now being more prominently recognized. We continue to have a biopic where a famous actor was transformed into a famous historical figure, a historical epic with aging and battle wounds, and a fantasy epic which created many a monster.

As this category was whittled down to seven bake-off finalists and three nominees, there were surprise omissions at both the first (“Cloud Atlas”) and second (“Lincoln”) stages. But for those of us who have watched this category for years, we have come to realize nothing can really be considered a surprise with this lot. And this year, the category is WIDE OPEN. That is refreshing.

The nominees are…

Read Full Post
<p>At least one Academy member is voting for &quot;Silver Linings Playbook&quot; across the board.</p>

At least one Academy member is voting for "Silver Linings Playbook" across the board.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Roundup: Inside the minds of three Oscar voters

Also: The politics of the In Memoriam montage, and 'Lincoln' vs. Connecticut

Various outlets do features along these lines every year, but for some reason, getting Academy members to share their ballots anonymous never loses its thrill for me -- they may just be single voices out of 6000-plus members, but they often make it that much easier to understand where certain Oscar voting trends are coming from. The LA Times has printed the picks of three members -- a producer, director and actor, two of them former nominees themselves -- with commentary. The actor is clearly indicative of where the Academy's "Silver Linings Playbook" love has been coming from, voting for it in every possible category, while the producer and director spread their affections around a little more, with "Zero Dark Thirty," "Argo," "Lincoln" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" all getting some respect. No unanimous choices, either. [LA Times]

Read Full Post
<p>Ed Helms and Ellie Kemper in &quot;The Office.&quot;</p>

Ed Helms and Ellie Kemper in "The Office."

Credit: NBC

Review: 'The Office' - 'Couples Discount'

Ed Helms returns, but do even 'The Office' writers know what a terrible character Andy's become?

A quick review of last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as we go outside to play catch...

Read Full Post
<p>That photo is such a lie, and I&nbsp;love how everything about the marketing of 'Side Effects' is a giant elbow to the ribs of the audience.</p>

That photo is such a lie, and I love how everything about the marketing of 'Side Effects' is a giant elbow to the ribs of the audience.

Credit: Open Road

Review: 'Side Effects' gives Rooney Mara a killer role in a sly Soderbergh thriller

Jude Law lets his inner weirdo out to play in a key supporting part

If this is how Steven Soderbergh decides to go out, let it be known he was playing games right up till the bitter end.

One of the interesting things about Soderbergh's career has been how low key the marketing on many of his films has been.  Considering how prominent he's  been in the Hollywood landscape since "sex, lies and videotapes" first vaunted him to fame, Soderbergh's films often feel like stealth events when they arrive in theaters.  Considering this is the last theatrical release he's supposedly ever directing, "Side Effects" arrives in theaters with surprisingly little fanfare, and when I walked into the theater, I hadn't seen anything.  Not a photo.  Not a trailer.

I've said before that there are two different versions of a film.  There's the version that is seen by the audience that has seen the trailers and the clips and the commercials, who walks in with a certain degree of the movie spoiled because that's how we sell movies these days.  They're the ones who walked into "Terminator 2" knowing full well that Arnold was not only back, but that he was the good guy this time.  They're the ones who sit through movies that have twist endings waiting for the twist ending.  Even if they don't know what it is, they know it's coming.  Then there's the version of the film that someone sees nine years later when they're at home one day and they see that the next thing on cable is called "Side Effects," and they've never heard of it, but they see that it's a Soderbergh film with Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum in it, and they decide to watch it, and whatever the narrative does, it hits them cold and the script works the way it's supposed to work in a vacuum.  If you see "Terminator 2" and you somehow haven't been spoiled at all, the first time Arnold appears, it looks like he's the bad guy again.  There's no indication that he's anything but The Terminator until he fires past John Connor and hits Robert Patrick.  That's the beat where suddenly the first film implodes and we realize something else is going on this time.  If it can work on you in that perfect vacuum, without being ruined at all, it's a very special narrative experience, and I value them when they occur.

Read Full Post
'Beautiful Creatures' star Emmy Rossum discusses Ridley's new style, future

'Beautiful Creatures' star Emmy Rossum discusses Ridley's new style, future

'Shameless' star enjoyed playing the bad girl
In Richard LaGravenese's "Beautiful Creatures," Emmy Rossum's Ridley Duchannes captures the essence of the character from Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's bestselling YA novel, while making dramatic and effective external changes. 
Gone is the lollypop-sucking Lolita with the pink streaks in her hair and the cosplay wardrobe. Instead, the character has a still-sexy Old Hollywood glamour that makes the linkage between Ridley's dark caster powers as a man-luring siren and the fact that retro movie starlets were also called sirens. 
I sat down with Rossum last weekend and we discussed Ridley's big screen makeover and her inspirations, as well as a new scene that explores Ridley's Claiming, the moment she became a dark caster.
I was a bit less successful in getting Rossum to go along with my attempted thematic linkage between Ridley and Fiona, her character on Showtime's "Shameless." Not all reportorial tangents can be successful and I still insist this one makes sense.
Finally, Rossum seems excited about exploring Ridley's progression in potential sequels, though she gives away a plot point from the new book in Garcia and Stohl's saga. She does, however, offer a helpful "spoiler warning."
Check out the full interview above.
Stay tuned over the next week for more interests with the stars of "Beautiful Creatures," including Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis.
"Beautiful Creatures" opens on February 14.
Read Full Post
"Project Runway"

 "Project Runway"

Credit: Lifetime

'Project Runway' recap: 'Surprise Me'

Designers must dress Heidi Klum for a fragrance launch - and some stink

Hey, guess what! Each season of "Project Runway" has a certain number of challenges in which our poor, hardworking designers must be slave labor for the judges, and that's begun in earnest tonight. I kind of hate these challenges, mostly because they reek of labor law violations, but also because they usually suck. Remember the mommy and me challenge? The ugly workout clothing challenge? The dressing Nina challenge? Let's hope this one, which is Heidi-centric, at least doesn't force the designers to create plus-size T-shirts for a Walmart line or overalls for NASCAR. You think I'm joking. All I think is that someone in marketing for the show just hasn't made the deal yet.

Read Full Post
<p>Lazaro waits pensively on &quot;American Idol&quot;</p>

Lazaro waits pensively on "American Idol"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 12 Live-Blog - Hollywood Round, Part 2

More quality time with the 'Idol' men from Hollywood

On Wednesday night, we spent a lot of time with the "American Idol" Men. Too much time, if you ask me. Hollywood Week used to be a highlight of the "Idol" schedule, but Wednesday's show was a mess that didn't leave me appreciating a single singer on a particularly high level.

But maybe Thursday's show will be better as we trim the masculine side of the "Idol" field...

Click through...

Read Full Post
<p>Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn in &quot;Scandal.&quot;</p>

Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn in "Scandal."

Credit: ABC

Review: 'Scandal' - 'Nobody Likes Babies'

The reinvented Shonda Rhimes drama wraps up its first major arc in fine fashion

When "Scandal" debuted last spring, I wasn't sure what to make of it, beyond recognizing that Kerry Washington had the goods to carry a series and Shonda Rhimes had fashioned an excellent role for her.

This season, though, Rhimes has kicked the show up to another level by ditching the Crisis of the Week procedural format in favor of reinventing "Scandal" as a gonzo hybrid of conspiracy thriller and high-stakes soap opera, involving election rigging, a presidential assassination attempt, a failed internal White House coup, and all sorts of other crazy shenanigans. It's ludicrous on virtually every level; it's also an enormous amount of fun, thanks to the writing and the performances.(*)

(*) The series has also benefited from ditching the charming but redundant Henry Ian Cusick and beefing up Josh Malina's role as a good guy who's righteously focused on bringing down Olivia.

Rhimes treated the season's first 13 episodes as one big arc, which culminated tonight with a whole bunch of revelations, shifted allegiances, and dastardly conduct. "Nobody Likes Babies" was a particularly strong showcase for Jeff Perry and Bellamy Young, and it resolved almost everything from this arc while setting up some interesting new conflicts for whatever comes next.

I'm talking to Rhimes sometime next week about how she reinvented the show for the better, but I wanted to mark the end of this first arc, and see what those of you who've been watching all along felt about how things wrapped up. We'll see if Rhimes can find a way to top this, but for now, bravo.

What did everybody else think?

Read Full Post
"The Vampire Diaries"

 "The Vampire Diaries"

Credit: The CW

'The Vampire Diaries' recap: 'Into the Wild'

Professor Shane leads the gang on a quest for Silas

If you thought all the mass killing and double-crossing and flip-flopping leading to our Scooby gang finally getting down to the nitty gritty of unearthing Silas, well, there's more where that came from. Tonight's episode is about all the many, many moving parts of this plot, and honestly, it's enough to make your head hurt. I can't decide whether Professor Shane is an evil genius or just confused, because if it's the latter? Can't blame him a bit. 

Read Full Post
<p>Zhang Ziyi in &quot;The Grandmaster.&quot;</p>

Zhang Ziyi in "The Grandmaster."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Wong Kar-wai's long-awaited 'The Grandmaster' opens Berlin on a conflicted note

Typically gorgeous but narratively choppy martial arts epic fails to fly

BERLIN - The waiting, as noted philosopher Thomas Earl Petty once said, is the hardest part. Just as some of Terrence Malick's languorously produced films premiered as near-mirages, to the point that the mere fact of their existence had to be absorbed before the critical conversation could begin in earnest, it's difficult to consider Wong Kar-wai's "The Grandmaster" without its extensively delayed arrival having some effect on one's gut response.

In the moment, heated anticipation can turn a merely good film into a masterpiece, a mere misfire into a disaster. "The Grandmaster," a predictably picturesque but surprisingly unconfident foray into would-be lusty commercial movie-making for the singular arthouse stylist of "Chungking Express" and "In the Mood for Love," goes to neither of these extremes, but its missteps are doubly dismaying for the knowledge that Wong deliberated over them so long.

Read Full Post
<p>Rashida Jones and Amy Poehler in &quot;Parks and Recreation.&quot;</p>

Rashida Jones and Amy Poehler in "Parks and Recreation."

Credit: NBC

Review: 'Parks and Recreation' - 'Ann's Decision'

Ann wants a baby, April wants to be more like Leslie, and the guys get food poisoning

A review of tonight's "Parks and Recreation" coming up just as soon as I stand trial for counterfeiting Euros...

Read Full Post