Tech Support: Chris Cornell, Elton John, Madonna and 'The Muppets' throw down for Best Original Song
Other contenders include tunes from 'Captain America' and 'Footloose'
Tech Support inadvertently took a week off as I never did get around to writing up the Best Original Song category. No worries. Nothing has happened of note in the field all year long, really, and the contenders have pretty much laid themselves bare, for the most part.
Naturally there will be some other considerations when the official list of qualifying tunes is revealed soon enough. That announcement dropped on December 15 last year, so I imagine within the week we'll know what's in the running.
For now, though, it's time to run a comb through what we're aware of and see what makes sense as formidable in the field. There are a number of tracks worth considering, so as we close up shop on Tech Support's category analysis this season, let's see what they are.
Also: George Méliès turns 150 and Asa Butterfield talks Scorsese film school
Remember that exchange on "Entourage" a few years back? Something about Clint Eastwood being set up at Warner Bros. for decades. "We give him $90 million to make movies now," the studio head said. To which Turtle quipped, "I heard he uses 60 and pockets 30. That's why he only does one take." Like so much of the show, it was inside baseball, but it cracked me up. Anyway, the point being, Eastwood has been a fixture on that lot seemingly since the dawn of time. Every once in a while he's ventured out and done a film with another studio, but home base is Warner Bros. So it makes sense for a handsome boxed set of his work there to hit the market. Enter "Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years at Warner Bros.," which would make a great Christmas gift for the Eastwood fanatic in your family. It has everything from "Where Eagles Dare" to "Invictus." [Amazon]
1967 doc 'Titicut Follies' to receive retrospective recognition
With Oscar season so invariably focused on the new and the now, it's refreshing when the occasional awards body casts a look backward to slightly older releases -- though they don't tend to go back 44 years. Trust the conscientious folks behind the Cinema Eye documentary awards to take up that cause with a Legacy Award for classic individual documentaries that, in their view, still carry resonance and influence today. This year's recipient: Frederick Wiseman's 1967 debut feature "Titicut Follies."
I've never had an opportunity to see Wiseman's film, an exposé of the grim conditions at a Massachusetts prison for the criminally insane, but it'd be interesting to see on what note he started his prolific and still-productive career. I'm familiar only with the director's later works, peaking with his staggering Paris ballet study "La Danse." His work of late has been preoccupied with human movement and performance; his latest, "Crazy Horse," about the titular Paris nightclub, continues in that direction. It opens in the US in January, neatly coinciding with the Cinema Eye presentation.
Edited press release after the jump.
Why are so many of this year's Oscar-tipped actresses better than the films around them?
It is an unhappy and semi-annual habit among Oscar-watchers to dismiss the Best Actress race as “weak,” a selection of performances that handily distils – either by conformity or exception – Hollywood’s routine neglect of its female performers. That narrative thankfully took a rest last year: with peak-form work by Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, Michelle Williams and winner Natalie Portman, plus a genuine revelation in Jennifer Lawrence, all of them in variously meaty, artful films, 2010 will likely be seen as a banner year for the category for some time.
It almost certainly won’t be topped this year – the tone across the blogosphere suggests that accusations of weakness are back in full force with this year’s lead actress race. Which is not to say that the field is thin or even uncompetitive: a look at the fringes of the category reveals a wealth of fine actresses turning in remarkable work in exciting films. Tilda Swinton in “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” Olivia Colman in “Tyrannosaur.” Elizabeth Olsen in “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” Anna Paquin in “Margaret.” Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg in “Melancholia.” Juliette Binoche in “Certified Copy.” Kristen Wiig in “Bridesmaids.” If this is the standard of the outsiders, how can this possibly be deemed a weak field?
Make your case for the film's Oscar worthiness
The giveaways keep on truckin' today as we have two DVDs of Gore Verbinski's "Rango" to dish out. I think we'll do something similar to the last contest. With an expanded field of Best Picture nominees, the odds are slightly better for animated films to make it into contention. While Pixar has had the stranglehold on that kind of consideration the last two years, this year, they clearly do not. And some might consider "Rango" the heir apparent to Best Picture potential in the medium.
So, if you agree, give me 100 words or less telling me why you think it deserves a fair shake and should play with the big boys in the Best Picture field.
Deadline is noon on Friday. Now... Go!
The Material Girl plants a flag in the race
I'll finally get around to running down the Best Original Song category in tomorrow's Tech Support column, but how about one last contender spotlight?
Madonna's "W.E." has took a critical thrashing when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September. Having finally caught the film last night, I'm sorry to report that the pans were on point. What a delirious mess of a film. A Vogue photo shoot brought to life. Which, it should be noted, the film is indeed gorgeous. The costume design, production design and cinematography would all find room on my ballot, I bet.
I had heard there was an original song for the film from the Material Girl herself, but didn't really think about it until I noted the FYC section of the screener packaging. Indeed, "Masterpiece" -- which leaked recently and is expected to also be on Madonna's next album -- is being pitched for awards.
The wealth spreads to the stars of 'The Artist' at the 27th annual
The tribute announcements keep coming for the upcoming Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Today the fest announced the recipient of this year's Cinema Vanguard Award, given in tandem for the first time this year, to "The Artist" stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo.
The honor is given annually "in recognition of an actor who has forged his/her own path, taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film." I guess that sums up what Dujardin and Bejo did with the film, but it's unique amid the flurry of recent recipients: Nicole Kidman, Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Stanley Tucci, Peter Sarsgaard, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ryan Gosling.
Anyway, festival director Roger Durling made his case in the press release: "In an age of sight and sound spectacle, there is great risk in a silent film. Jean and Bérénice's acting is an amazing pas des deux both physically and emotionally - recalling classic Hollywood pairings like Hepburn and Tracy, and of course indelibly Ginger and Fred."
The actor, known for being a part of ensembles, finally fronts one
It's hot as hell in here. No, really, Gary Oldman has set the thermostat so high that it feels less like a room at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons than a fire-heated Transylvanian castle on a snow-blown mountainside.
"The first thing I do when I get into a hotel room is crank it up to about 80," he says jokingly through that recognizable twangy British accent to a publicist as she makes her way out of the room. Or is it recognizable? Oldman is a classic character actor, a "that guy" for film-goers the world over. So maybe it is. But his career never took hold in a leading man capacity, so he lingers on the pages of recent film history. Maybe it was the dust-up behind the scenes over the perspective of Rod Lurie's "The Contender" in 2000 that held him back at a time when his career was set to take off. Maybe that's an overstatement.
He looks remarkably young. At 53, he's taken on roles as of late that have played up older, wiser traits, but they've clearly shielded some vitality. His latest, Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," is a prime example, Oldman saddling up to the role that Alec Guiness first fleshed out on the screen via British television mini-series. Now he's being asked by young press types who aren't likely aware of Guiness outside of "Star Wars" whether he was familiar with that project before taking the role.
Also: Madonna's best on-screen moments and Jolie sued over 'Blood and Honey'
It's been interesting finding myself caught in the middle on a great many films this year that have sparked passion on both sides of the scale. Watching the pendulum swing between love and hate on "J. Edgar," "The Help" and now, "Hugo," has been strange, because I can't passionately argue one case over the other, but I sympathize with both. We first mentioned the idea of 2011 as a season of films about nostalgia a few weeks back, and that narrative has continued to take hold. Mark Harris recently spotlighted it, but went a step further into accusing films like "The Artist" and "Hugo" of "faux-nostalgia, pegging the latter for being "not a valentine to the dawn of movies [but] a valentine to the people who send those valentines." Flattery, he seems to surmise, will get you everywhere with the Academy. [Grantland]
'The Muppets' unleash communist propaganda on the unsuspecting youth of America
The interwebz has been roaring in the wake of Eric Bolling’s “Follow the Money” segment that accused the creators of “The Muppets,” Roland Emmerich and Hollywood at large of brainwashing the minds of the kids of America. According to the program, the film is doing its part to spread the red (subliminal Marxist programming) by luring the wee ones in with the endearing felt-made friends, and the charm of Jason Segel, only to unleash the grander liberal agenda when they are distracted by unmitigated delight.
The Fox Business Network and Media Matters show explained that the selection of a “successful business man” (Tex Richman) as the primary villain in the film is indicative of a large scale campaign to ensure that the upcoming generation is teeming with little Lennons and Lenins (either John or Vladimir will do). The ideal populace will also be sprinkled with Rasputin – for flavor.
Proselytizing! Well, if one network would know it when it sees it...