What are the worst Best Picture winners of all time? Though the answers may overlap, it's a question that's not entirely the same as, "What are the worst films ever to win Best Picture?" Several titles on the Academy's ultimate honor roll are artistically lacking, though that doesn't necessarily make them terrible winners. Accepting as most of us do that the Academy is rarely, if ever, going to agree with us on the year's single greatest film, we begin to value alternative virtues in Oscar champs: durability, universality, pop-cultural standing, provocation, reach.
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(I had scheduled this review to go up yesterday, but held back in the interests of not being a total Christmas Day Scrooge. Keep sharing your reactions.)
"Do you hear the people sing?" blusters the famous closing chorus of stage blockbuster "Les Misérables," and rarely in musical theater has a question been more rhetorical. The line is an imperative, a war cry, sounding not only the purposeful social discontent firing the 1832 June Rebellion, but a proactive admonishment to the show's critics.
Lady Gaga fans rejoice: Mamma Monster is making a film just for you with her favorite photographer at the helm.
On Christmas, she tweeted, “Merry Christmas little monsters! Terry Richardson @Terry_World is making a #LadyGagaMOVIE documenting my life, the creation of ARTPOP + you!”
She later thanked fans for being “so patient waiting for my new album,” which still has no release date. And then sent a tweet to Richardson: “I love you @Terry_World thank you for believing in me and my fans, I have looked up to you and your work for so long, its a dream come true! Lady Gaga recently tweeted that she has written more than 50 songs for the new album.
Maybe the documentary will include more footage of her doing a striptease and cavorting with two other women in a bath tub.
As for any other clue as to how Lady Gaga spent her holiday (other than on Twitter), she later tweeted, “I'm listening to @MariahCarey 's christmas album dancing in my room with my weed xmas sweater. all i need now is my box wine #bestdayever
What do "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Lincoln" have in common? Beyond both being American Oscar hopefuls that happen to be his two favorite films of the year, A.O. Scott thinks they share something else: a "Spielbergian" quality: "Both films have been accused of painting some of the calamities of American life, past and present — poverty, slavery, racism, environmental disaster — in unduly optimistic colors.“Lincoln” and “Beasts” are radically, fundamentally and in complementary ways, about freedom... They are also examples of what, for an American filmmaker, freedom looks like." Good points all round, and also indicative of why, in my opinion, "Beasts" has a cleaner shot at a Best Picture nod than many believe it does right now. [New York Times]
If you listened to the top 10 podcast or read through the subsequent column, you know very well what I think of Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained." It is perhaps for me his best work since "Jackie Brown" and easily one of the year's best films. And it's hitting screens this holiday with a lot of anticipation built-up and ready to pop. So here's your space to tell us what you thought of the film, so rifle off your take here when/if you get a chance to see it, and feel free to rate it above.
The wait is over for those heavily anticipating the transition of "Les Misérables" from stage to screen as the film hits theaters this holiday season. I'll be very interested to know how it plays for our readers. It's been a funny thing, watching such split reactions. Critics are mostly lukewarm but Academy members eat it up. I'm somewhere in the middle there. I cried a bit, cringed a bit, and mostly enjoyed the enterprise. But do tell us what you thought. And feel free to rate it above.
On the previous Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, Dan and I talked about our favorite TV shows of 2012. On today's podcast (likely our final of the year), we offered the dark side of that, with some of the worst and/or most disappointing shows of 2012, from a cross-dressing comedy everybody knew would be bad to a prestige cable drama we had such hopes for. The rundown:
"The Walking Dead" without Glen Mazzara (00:01:00 - 00:10:55)
The Worst of 2012 (00:11:00 - 01:11:00)
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
NEW YORK - Having worked in the movie industry for over 15 years, you can probably guess I've seen a lot of films. I've often been asked to attend very early screenings for highly anticipated films. Moreover, I've been lucky to attend numerous premieres in Hollywood, New York and on the festival circuit in Toronto, Telluride and Park City. I have never, however, seen a reaction to a performance in a movie theater like the euphoric response to Jennifer Hudson's turn as Effie White in "Dreamgirls." Spontaneous applause is one thing, an impromptu standing ovation during three separate premieres is something else. And, simply, nothing has ever come close...until this year. Anne Hathaway clearly doesn't have Jennifer Hudson's vocal talent, but she may give Hudson's legendary awards season a run for her money in "Les Miserables."
It was a strong year for music with artists old and new making music that resonated deeply. Below are my top 10 albums of the year along with another 10 that could have been contenders. To see my Top 10 singles, go here. My colleague Katie Hasty prepped a video package of her top albums as well. To view that, go here.
1. “Channel Orange,” Frank Ocean: A striking debut from an artist who seemed to arrive fully formed. It’s not just his writing or singing or musicality, it’s also the unguarded emotion that he brings to every song. He examines love in all its forms. His influences, including Stevie Wonder and Prince, are along for the ride, but he still delivered a collection that felt unique.
2. "Babel," Mumford & Sons: Bolstered by Marcus Mumford’s furious guitar playing and Winston Chambers’ ringing banjo work, “Babel’s” tells of the search for grace and redemption are all the church you needed in 2012.
3. "Three Pears,"Dwight Yoakam: In his first album of original songs in seven years, the neo-honky tonk pioneer creates some of his most soaring, jangly melodies, referencing all of his idols, from the Beach Boys to Elvis Presley to, of course, Buck Owens. Beck produced two cuts to help get Yoakam started, but the album comes from a singular, still resonant voice and heart.
4. "Little Broken Hearts," Norah Jones: Working with Danger Mouse brought out a previously hidden recklessness and menace to Jones’ work. Sweet melodies are juxtaposed against murderous thoughts, such as on “Miriam.” It’s a stunningly dark album that covers betrayal, debilitating hurt, shame, the desire for revenge, and, ultimately, the ability to walk away, bowed but not broken.
5. "Wrecking Ball," Bruce Springsteen: The foremost chronicler of America once again sums up the current national zeitgeist in all its beauty and horror and gives voice to our hopes and fears. Full of cathartic anthems, Wrecking Ball” sets it sights on the devastation and destruction wrought on the middle class and increasingly growing lower class, by Wall Street and venomously takes prisoners.
6. "Some Nights," fun.: The trio sounds like Queen crossed with Barenaked Ladies. Each of the songs are several songs wrapped up in one, unified by Nate Ruess’s sweeping, supple vocals. From the big drums to the big melodies to the big vocals, fun. exemplified what’s best about pure pop music this year.
7. "The Carpenter," Avett Bros.: A glorious look at life and death, with the focus on death. The North Carolina brothers run the gamut of human experiences on their seventh album, a rambunctious, largely acoustic affair, with a joy and depth missing in so much of today’s music.
8. “Unorthodox Jukebox,” Bruno Mars: This would have been higher on the list if it weren’t for Mars’ occasional lapses into bitterness and misogyny on such songs as “Natalie” and “Money Make Her Smile,” but those blights are overcome by the extremely well-crafted melodies and Mars’ song craft. Leave out the tunes about the golddiggers and focus on beauties like “When I Was Your Man,” “If I Knew” and “Locked Out Of Heaven.”
9. "Looking 4 Myself," Usher: There’s really nothing Raymond Usher can’t do, whether it’s bust out a full dance or contemplate what it means to become an adult. The reflective “Looking 4 Myself” finds Usher in a thoughtful mood about love and his life, especially on the gorgeous “Climax” (just listen to his searing falsetto). His confidence as a performer leads him to an embrace of many different music styles and adventurousness missing from some of his past work. An underrated effort that will hopefully find a more appreciative audience as years pass.
10. "Red," Taylor Swift: While not an album I go back to frequently, “Red” makes the list because of the abandon and artistry Swift took when creating it. Her musical evolution since her debut six years ago is nothing less than staggering and on “Red” she exhibits a fearlessness when it comes to embracing different styles. Almost every song features drums way upfront in the mix and an aggressiveness of purpose. Sure, the singles are catchy, but album cuts such as her atmospheric duet with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and the Cranberries-like “State of Grace” are worth rooting out.
TEN OTHER ALBUMS I GREATLY ENJOYED
“A Thing Called Divine Fits,” Divine Fits
“Blunderbuss,” Jack White
“The Truth About Love,” Pink
“The Only Place,” Best Coast
“Uno,” Green Day’
“Bloom,” Beach House
Shields, Grizzly Bear
"Lonerism," Tame Impala
“Slipstream,” Bonnie Raitt
“Born and Raised,” John Mayer
What were your favorite albums of 2012?
As members of the Academy hurry through the last screeners they need to see before committing an opinion on the year's best (for those who bother trying to get as deep into the stack as possible, that is), a number of races hang in the balance as extremely tight categories are sure to leave a number of contenders feeling the sting of "also-ran" on Thursday, January 10.