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Kenneth Branagh embraced what he describes as potentially “dangerously obvious” casting with his portrayal of Sir Laurence Olivier in “My Week with Marilyn.” The actor has, of course, quite notably been compared to Olivier throughout the course of his career. He was given the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1983 for Most Promising Newcomer. Both he and Olivier directed themselves as “Hamlet” and “Henry V” and both men often directed the women that they were involved with and/or married to.
Branagh has been nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Actor and Best Director for “Henry V” in 1990, Best Live Action Short for “Swan Song” in 1992 and Best Adapted Screenplay for “Hamlet” in 1996), but has yet to secure a win. Olivier himself was granted an honorary award in 1979 for the full body of his work. It would be somehow poetic if Branagh were to take home the Best Supporting Actor statue for his depiction of the man that paved the road for much of the trajectory of his own career.
Making a Top 10 list is hard. Not busting-up-concrete kind of hard, but in an instant-remorse kind of hard. It never fails —the minute it’s unchangeable and I’m locked in, I inevitably remember something that I wish I’d put on the list or a great new album comes out after my deadline (for me, that was Anthony Hamilton’s “Back To Love”). Then other top 10 lists make me realize how many albums I was unable to give a full and fair listen to in their totality, even when I liked the individual tracks I heard. Among the albums in that category this year are Wild Flag’s self-titled set, Cut Copy’s “Zonoscope,” The Weeknd’s “House of Balloons” and tUnE-yArDs’ “whokill.”
Though Madonna is clearly beloved by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association - having been nominated for a total of six Golden Globes (five for Best Original Song - Motion Picture and one for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical) and won once (in the latter category for "Evita") - the venerable performer simply can't catch a break from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Case in point: "Masterpiece", the Material Girl's now-Golden Globe-nominated song contribution to her second directorial effort "W.E.", was not among the 39 tunes announced by the Academy today as eligible for next year's Best Original Song Oscar. So what gives? Was it something she said?
As it turns out, the snub isn't personal - "Masterpiece" really isn't eligible. See, in order to qualify for the category, the song in question needs to:
a) Consist of words and music, both of which are original and used specifically for the film; and
b) Be used either in the body of the film, or as the "first music cue" in the closing credits (i.e. the first song that plays once the screen fades to black).
The latter of the above two criteria appears to be the problem for "Masterpiece", which isn't featured in the context of the film itself and also happens to be the second song featured during the movie's closing crawl. (The first being a continuation of composer Abel Korzeniowski's score.)
Maybe the Oscar-obsessed Weinsteins figured the Academy would overlook the established rules when coming up with the Best Original Song eligibles - you know, because they're the Weinsteins? Or were they simply unaware of the Academy's specific requirements before sending out those "Masterpiece"-touting "W.E." screeners?
In any case, looks like poor old Madge is once again being denied the opportunity to add "Oscar nominee/winner" to her substantial list of accomplishments (particularly given that "W.E." isn't expected to pick up nods in any of the major categories), a designation that I can't imagine she isn't at least a little bit hungry for (she is Madonna, after all).
But hey, buck up kiddo; there's always next year. And just remember - the Hollywood Foreign Press Association loves you no matter what.
What do you think of the Academy's Best Original Song rules? Should the eligibility requirements be loosened? Sound off with your comments below!
Steven Spielberg's films are events at this point, even when he tries to go low-key, simply by virtue of who he is and what he's done.
Even if I wanted to, I'm not sure I could ever shut myself off from Spielberg's films. His voice as a filmmaker is a crucial part of the DNA that made me into the film fan that I am today. Early viewings of "Jaws," "Duel," "Close Encounters," and "Raiders" hardwired me to his particular emotional vocabulary, and watching his evolution over the course of my life has been fascinating. Even if you ignore his work as a producer, his contribution to film has been rich and varied, and he's managed to remain dead center in the mainstream for longer than almost any director I can name.
It's been three years since his last film, the decidedly mixed bag of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull," and six years since his last non-sequel, "Munich." Now, we've got two very different new Spielberg films within a week of one another. There's "The Adventures Of Tintin," which I reviewed earlier, and which I think is one of the most unfettered examples of his imagination as a filmmaker, breathless fun and invention. He's also the director of "War Horse," a sprawling and intentionally old-fashioned adaptation of the novel by Michael Morpurgo, and his sensibilities are on display in a way that should prove pleasing to most viewers while driving his harshest critics up a wall.
Not long after the release of "Clash Of The Titans," I had occasion to speak to Thomas Tull, the CEO of Legendary Pictures. He was one of the main reasons that the remake of "Clash" happened in the first place, as he holds the first film as one of his most cherished geek treasures. He wanted to do something grand and amazing and really dig into the potential of the mythology of that world, and instead…
… well, if you saw "Clash Of The Titans," you know that didn't really work out. And no one seemed more aware of the film's shortcomings than Tull. Star Sam Worthington has been blunt about the film's problems as well in interviews, and so as they were gearing up for the sequel, it seemed that everyone had the same goal in mind: they wanted to set things right. Tull told me that he felt obligated to make a sequel just so they had another shot at making the film he had in mind the first time around, which seems to me as good a reason to make a sequel as any.
And so starts the week-long stretch to Christmas, with a few more new songs, covers and holiday news from The Kills, Cat Power, Blitzen Trapper, Macy Gray and more.
"The moon makes me want to eat you alive,” sings The Kills' Alison Mosshart. "Sleep if you do wake, dear."
Is that how you really feel, Alison? Don't look for little Baby Jesus in this classic carol re-make of "Silent Night," below. The singer's boozy howl is gorgeous, even if she seems transfixed more on death than she is on new life. Whatever, pass the coke.
Meanwhile, there's new news from Cat Power's camp. Chan Marshall Tweeted on Friday that there will be a new Christmas charity single and accompanying video out on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24); those who wish to download the as-yet-unnamed track will have a list of charities to choose from to put their donated dollars toward.
Due to the overwhelming use of all caps, I shall repeat only one of her Tweets, abridged, this one pertaining to a new studio album, anticipated since 2006's "The Greatest" and 2008's covers album "Jukebox."
"ALMOST DONE WITH ALBUM."
The Academy has announced via press release the 39 eligible songs eligible for this year's Best Original Song Oscar. As I look over the list, I only noticed two songs on our on-going list of 24 at the Contenders section that didn't make the cut.
The first is "Fake I.D." from the "Footloose" remake, which I guess it was written prior to the film or something. The other is Madonna's Golden Globe-nominated "Masterpiece" from "W.E.," which you'll recall I had a hunch might be in trouble because it's the second cue of the film's closing credits (and the rules stipulate that if it's a closing credits number, it has to be the first cue).
All three tracks submitted by "The Muppets" are on there, and that's really where the story is, because at the end of the day, I expect there to be two of them in the mix. Which two is anyone's guess, but my favorite has always been "Pictures in My Head."
In just three weeks we've gone from zero to a hundred on the circuit as the film awards landscape has been sculpted into a bit of a consensus in these waning moments of 2011. And now that I've consolidated all the announcements into an easy-to-navigate post, I can dig in and see what that consensus is.
Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist" is considered far and away the frontrunner for Best Picture at the moment by a number of pundits, having won six Best Film prizes from various groups. But would you be shocked to know that "The Descendants" has just as many? And Terence Malick's "The Tree of Life," meanwhile, isn't going away. It has landed four Best Picture honors and today was crowned the year's best in a survey of critics and pundits at indieWIRE.
As for the directors, it's Martin Scorsese and Michel Hazanavicius currently eking out the edge with six wins each for "Hugo" and "The Artist" respectively. But Malick isn't far behind with four of his own. We can tip the scales back in Scorsese and Hazanavicius's favor a bit, though, as both received BFCA and Golden Globe nominations, while Malick did not.
I often find myself looking to veteran music critic Ann Powers, in matters of taste and prose. On the topic of Seattle songwriter Shelby Earl, I'll take a quote straight from her: "Over the years I’ve become friendly with a few musicians... In general, though, I’ve clung to that old idea that critical perspective and personal connection don’t mix. Until now. I’m writing this note to ask you to listen to an album by a friend."
I met Earl through mutual friends years ago, and it's been a thrill to see her successes this year. She released "Burn the Boats" this year through Immaculate Noise favorite Rachel Flotard's Local 638 Records label, the album featuring John Roderick of the Long Winters. The alt-country artist brings the same amount of heart and bits of sentimentality into new holiday track "This Christmas Is For Us."