Is it just me or are the MTV Movie Awards trying to be a little more respectable? Yeah, stuff like "Identity Thief" and "We're the Millers" picked up multiple nominations this morning, but prestige Oscar players "American Hustle" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" led the field with eight each, besting even "The Hunger Games." And Best Picture Oscar winner "12 Years a Slave" is in there for Movie of the Year. Color me surprised, that's all.
We've been waiting a while for a complete trailer for The Weinstein Company's "Grace of Monaco" -- a teaser was unveiled before the film was postponed from its initial November 2013 release slot, but it was all flash and champagne and satin drapery, withholding Nicole Kidman's actual performance as Oscar-winning actress turned European princess Grace Kelly. Now, with director Olivier Dahan's film just over two months away from opening the Cannes Film Festival, we get to see a little more, and... well, it's still flash and champagne and satin drapery, but there's more of a sense of what the stakes are, and the commitment with which Kidman is interpreting a tricky role.
Listen, I wanted to be down with the new "Annie" remake. I like Quvenzhané Wallis -- who doesn't? I like Cameron Diaz, too -- especially in vampy, unhinged mode. (Say what you will about "The Counselor," but she's going for broke in it.) Casting her as Miss Hannigan made so little ostensible sense that you figured there had to be some secret, counter-intuitive payoff there. And director Will Gluck made "Easy A," so at least the man knows sparky. ("Friends With Benefits," not so much, but forgive, forget, etc.) And finally, nostalgists may wince, but John Huston's 1982 "Annie" is kind of a bloated, out-of-its-time relic -- there's ample room for improvement there.
Conan O'Brien has been announced as the host of this year's MTV Movie Awards, set to air Sunday, April 13. It will be the late night talk show's first stint hosting the show. He hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards in 2006.
The dust has settled. I've had an opportunity to go back and look at the Oscars telecast away from a work setting (let's finally leave poor John Travolta alone). The 86th annual Academy Awards are a memory, and today, Best Picture winner "12 Years a Slave" is available on DVD and Blu-ray (nice timing, folks). It was a wild ride, an unpredictable one, and one that started in the mountains of Colorado.
For a ceremony that wasn't even advertising itself as "the young, hip Oscars" -- how sparkly and limber Anne Hathaway looked in her presenting stint, relieved of that thankless, three-year-old yoke -- you could hardly move for all the pointed assurances that last night's Academy Awards were definitely taking place in the 21st century.
Selfies! Twitter! Lupita Nyong'o getting down to Pharrell! Bette Midler lusking out "The Wind Beneath My Wings!" Well, maybe not entirely in the 21st century. (At least some of it was in an altogether parallel universe, and not just the performance by venerated stage chanteuse Adele Dazim.) Still, a larger-than-usual proportion of the show was at least in the present tense, which is where it needed to be -- not least given that voters were evidently torn between one film that processes and reflects America's past, and another that offers glistening pointers to an entire medium's future.
The morning after the Oscars is always a strange feeling. We've been covering this process in earnest for months, and now it's over. And for the first time ever, I'm pleased to say that I scored a perfect 10 in predicting the winners in the crafts categories! (I went 21/24 overall, missing Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short and…Best Picture.)
To be fair, however, I'm hardly the only person to have gone 10/10 in this respect. In that sense, we had a night without surprises, which is not to say we didn't have stories.
At the Independent Spirit Awards Saturday afternoon, John Cassavetes Award winner (and former In Contention contributor) Chad Hartigan told me something I didn't know: He wouldn't have made "This is Martin Bonner" if it weren't for Steve McQueen's "Hunger." He copped a few of the film's lines in his film, some of the camerawork, too. He was inspired, he said, by a filmmaker who could pull something that powerful off with such modest means, both financially and artistically.
That, to me, is McQueen's legend. That, to me, is the kind of thing that will endure. These nickel-plated notions of "importance" that people throw around during the Oscar season, straining to associate some arbitrary level meaning to the thing, they can frankly diminish the very fine achievement on display. "I fear all the talk about the historical importance of '12 Years a Slave' almost completely obscures its extraordinary artistic merit," Black List founder and CEO Franklin Leonard Tweeted after the Oscars Sunday night, and that's sort of what I was getting at with my piece last week titled "On Oscars and the personal gravity of art." The worst thing you can do is allow the Oscars to smother the movies.
Welcome to Oscar Talk.
In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is broadcast in special installments 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.
On the docket today…
Alessandra Stanley discusses the presence of social causes, notably gay rights, in last night's ceremony. Citing Jared Leto's impassioned acceptance speech for "Dallas Buyers Club" and Ellen DeGeneres's playful allusions to her sexuality on stage, she writes: "Hollywood is so righteous, suddenly, about gay rights, and that’s a little puzzling because for so long, movies were part of the problem. Professional basketball has its first openly gay player, Jason Collins, but it’s still hard to think of romantic leads — male or female — who are A-list Hollywood movie stars and also openly gay." [New York Times]