April 22, 2014

Tag Archives: Actor

Spotlight on the Stars: Kevin Costner

Here we go with another installment of my Spotlight on the Stars series. Each week, I’ll look at an actor/actress/filmmaker that I’d like to celebrate in some kind of a way. It could be due to something of theirs coming out that weekend (like last week and this week, for example) or just because I feel they deserve to have a moment in the sun, but each time it’ll be a bit of positivity about someone who I’d like to pay tribute to.
For this week’s piece (number three overall so far), I wanted to take a look at our first male actor…Kevin Costner. Some see him as a bit of a has been, but I disagree and not only still see a movie star, but an underrated actor as well. Costner is a throwback to an older generation of actor. Very much a man’s man and a real movie star, but one with a softness to him as well. His best performances have perfectly highlighted that. He can be an excellent action hero, that’s for sure, but I’ve always preferred him as a bit more of a working man, be it as a baseball player or just a middle class Joe like he was in The Company Men.

Yes, his best films often involve sports (particularly baseball), but how is that a knock against him? Especially with the very good Draft Day hitting theaters this weekend, it’s just evidence of him knowing where he really fits and playing to that. From Bull Durham to Field of Dreams to For Love of the Game and Tin Cup (and also The Upside of Anger, where he plays a retired player), the sports genre really seems to serve him well. That being said, he’s hardly out of his element when removed from athletics.
Costner has usually challenged himself more than he’s been given credit for, especially considering his directorial career. He won Best Director and Best Picture for Dances with Wolves, and even his projects that were deemed unsuccessful weren’t for a lack of ambition. He can be a risk taker behind the camera, even as he’s a calming and grounded presence in front of it. That’s particularly on display with Draft Day, even when his character is far from calm.
Overall, Costner is am underrated actor with an undeniable screen presence, like I mentioned above. As he begins to enter somewhat of a Hollywood elder [...]

Could a Best Picture nominee launch from Cannes this year?

In the pretty near future, the lineup for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival will be announced. We already know that potential Oscar player Grace of Monaco will be there, but what else could debut at Cannes and then potentially appeal to Academy members? This particular festival isn’t nearly as awards season centric as the New York or Toronto Film Festivals are (or the Telluride Film Festival, for that matter), but we always get a contender or two to discuss. Last year we had Blue is the Warmest Color debut, while future nominees like The Great Beauty, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Nebraska unspooled as well. That got me thinking about what this year’s slate could have inside of it for prognosticators like myself to chew on…
Below you’ll find five titles that I think could have a chance at turning the heads of voters, provided of course that they play at the fest. I’ve opted to focus on American movies just because those are the ones that the Academy tends to focus in on themselves, though of course there are exceptions from time to time like Amour. Still, big time contenders (and even the occasional Best Picture winner like No Country for Old Men) tend to be english language outings. Anyway, now I’ll dive in and speculate about five likely Cannes titles that could have a chance to woo members of the Academy.
1. Birdman – There’s a chance that this comedy from Alejandro González Iñárritu could be too offbeat for Oscar voters, but they’ve gone out on dramatic limbs with him before, so if this tale of a washed up actor doesn’t get too weird for them, there are tons of nomination opportunities. This could also be the role that nabs Michael Keaton his first Academy Award nomination too, so there’s that. This one could either get shut out or be a huge player, but it’s potentially the most likely to transition to awards season attention. We’ll see if it actually debuts at Cannes, but I think it’s highly likely that it will.
2. Magic in the Moonlight – Another highly likely title for the fest, Woody Allen’s next movie is set in France, so that only makes it even more apt for a slot. That being said, of late Allen has basically seen every other film of his become Oscar players, so this could be the off year for him. Still, it’s likely [...]

Is Steve Carell on his way to becoming an Oscar favorite?

One of the 2014 Oscar contenders I’m most looking forward to is Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, which stars Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum. I’ll be getting more in depth into that one later on this year, but after the news this week that Carell has also added another project to his slate that screams “nominate me”, I’ve started to think about where his career could be headed. In short, could Carell be an Oscar nominee and/or a winner within the next year or two?
This new project that he’s involved in is called The Priority List and is a drama about a teacher dying of cancer attempting to go on the road and reconnect with his students while making the most of his last days. If there was ever a plot that seems tailor made for a Best Actor nomination, it’s this one. Of course, we don’t know who’s writing or directing or costarring yet, and that can make a big difference (I don’t even know if the book is any good, just that it’s a true life tale, and voters tend to dig on that), but it’s just the right sort of role for a comedic actor to tackle as they transition to a more dramatic stage of their career.
Carell has shown dramatic skill before, though usually in more dramedy style roles such as the supporting turn of his in Little Miss Sunshine. Even over the last few years, a lot of his choices have been more in the quietly funny or even more dramatic than humorous realm, almost as if he’s been prepping for this transition deliberately. Foxcatcher will be by far his darkest and most serious role to date, and that should set him up nicely for this upcoming drama The Priority List.

This year will have Carell almost certainly in contention with the aforementioned Foxcatcher, though we don’t know yet if it’ll be a Lead or Supporting performance. Regardless, The Priority List is a clear Lead and showcase piece, so imagine if, two years from now, we’re talking about how Carell won Best Supporting Actor and then the very next year won Best Actor? It’s not as laughable (no pun intended) a prospect as you might think. Matthew McConaughey after all is now being looked at as a perpetual threat to get nominated, and consider what Jim Carrey’s Oscar career could have been like if he’d been [...]

Oscars®: Noah – What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel
Main Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Douglas Booth, Marton Csokas, Nick Nolte, Mark Margolis, and Frank Langella
Past Oscar relations: Crowe won Best Actor for Gladiator and has two other acting nominations, Hopkins won Best Actor for The Silence of the Lambs and has three other acting nominations, Connolly won Best Supporting Actress for A Beautiful Mind, Nolte has three acting nominations, Langella has one acting nominations, Aronofsky has a nomination for Best Director, and DP Matthew Libatique has a nomination for Best Cinematography
Here we go now with our first true article in this new series on 2014 contenders. First up is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, which again brings him together with the likes of Jennifer Connelly, composer Clint Mansell, co-writer Ari Handel, and cinematographer Matthew Libatique, along with newcomers like Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, and Logan Lerman. It’s a retelling of the story of Noah (shockingly enough), though apparently more in line with Aronofsky’s prior work like The Fountain than more straightforward biblical tales to date.

What this movie has going in its favor is quite simply Aronofsky. He’s a visionary director and this has long been a passion project of his. I’ll have a bit more to say about passion projects this weekend, but I’m someone who’s always interested in them and how much potential they have. Aronofsky finally caught the Academy’s attention last time around with Black Swan (though both Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler scored acting citations), so if Oscar voters are now on his wavelength, we could see them look to honor his ambition here.
Working against Noah is publicity that the flick will get because of its origins, as opposed to the final product itself. Early reviews have been mixed but mostly positive, so it’s not a question of if the film is any good or not, but if it’ll be given a real chance. My heart wants to say that folks will look past the potential protests from the religious right, but my head thinks that it’ll become something all too easy to ignore for voters. Taking into account that it’s an early year release as well, and the movie clearly will have an uphill battle for any major recognition, to say the least.
So, can this be a player at all? My gut says [...]

The Oscars® were no enormous shame, a few good jokes, no great shocks

I’m a big fan of Ellen DeGeneres and her understated, often brilliant humor. This was most evident when she hosted the 2001 Emmy Awards after the horrific events in New York and Washington that year. The show was postponed twice, and when it finally aired a couple of months later the big question was how it could be entertaining?
Almost from the outset Ellen delivered. To paraphrase what she said, it was something like the terrorists could not break our spirit. Then she paused and deadpanned that only network executives could do that.

It was funny, unexpected yet absolutely true. It related to the events just passed, but broke the ice and allowed the show to go on to its true purpose after the long delay.

The Oscars Rate a B-Minus.
I wish I could say Ellen’s performance last night rose to that occasion. Though it generally retained the dignity and glamour that audiences expect, something lost in last year’s show hosted by Seth MacFarlane, it was mostly bland with repetitive jokes and occasional good moments. Having said that, I cringed a bit when Ellen repeated out loud and very slowly a compliment to Nebraska supporting actress nominee June Squibb, whom Ellen had termed the oldest Oscar nominee ever, as if the actress were almost deaf and needed careful attention to hear her remarks.

Throughout the ABC show, Ellen drew from a past playbook and redid bits from the last time she hosted in 2007, often appearing in the audience, talking with this celebrity or that and taking photos. In one segment she asked if anyone was hungry, which drew very few responses and went on much too long. However, when a pizza man arrived later in the show, though only with three pizzas, it was amusing to see how many celebrities accepted a slice, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford. And that no one initially responded to Ellen’s request for donations to pay the man.
To read Michael Russnow’s latest book, “Hollywood on the Danube,” go to www.createspace.com/4497564

I’d thought sometime later it would have been funny if the delivery man, denied payment, started taking back the pizza slices from Meryl, Julia and the others. However, they eventually paid the bit off when Ellen passed a hat into which producer Harvey Weinstein threw two hundred dollars and several celebrities forked over twenty or more dollars each. By my count that was over three hundred [...]

France’s César Awards are handed out

We’re only two days out from the Oscars now, but today and tomorrow we have some other awards to report on, starting off right now with the just announced César Awards, which are the French equivalent of the Academy Awards. There’s no real Academy crossover to speak of, but it’s an interesting ceremony to take note of anyway. Any award show is worthwhile in my book, and I hope you agree as well.
The Best Picture prize went to Les Garçons Et Guillaume, A Table!, which also saw Guillaume Gallienne win Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay, while favorite son over there Roman Polanski took Best Director for Venus in Fur. Among more notable winners, The Broken Circle Breakdown won Best Foreign Film while Adèle Exarchopoulos took the Best Female Newcomer prize for her amazing work in Blue is the Warmest Color. Voters spread things around otherwise, as you’ll be able to see below.
Again, this means almost nothing for Oscar, unless you really want to extrapolate and try and make the case that The Broken Circle Breakdown could pull an upset on Sunday in the Best Foreign Language Feature category. Still, I was thrilled to see Exarchopoulos get noticed here, so consider me relatively pleased overall by these results.
Here now are all of the César award winners:
BEST PICTURE
Les Garçons Et Guillaume, A Table!
BEST DIRECTOR
Roman Polanski, Venus In Fur
BEST ACTOR
Guillaume Gallienne, Les Garçons Et Guillaume, A Table!
BEST ACTRESS
Sandrine Kiberlain, 9 Mois Ferme
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Niels Arestrup, Quai D’Orsay
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Adèle Haenel, Suzanne
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Guilaume Gallienne, Les Garçons Et Guillaume, A Table!
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Albert Dupontel, 9 Mois Ferme
BEST FOREIGN FILM
The Broken Circle Breakdown
BEST SHORT FILM
Avant Que De Tout Perdre, Xavier Legrand
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Thomas Hardmeier, The Young And Prodigious Mr Spivet
BEST EDITING
Valérie Deseine, Les Garçons Et Guillaume, A Table!
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Loulou L’Incroyable Secret, Eric Omond
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Mademoiselle Kiki Et Les Montparnos, Amélie Harrault
BEST DOCUMENTARY
Sur Le Chemin De L’Ecole, Pascal Plisson
BEST SOUND
Jean-Pierre Duret, Jean Mallet & Mélissa Petitjean, Michael Kohlhaas
BEST ART DIRECTION
Stéphane Rozenbaum, L’Ecume Des Jours
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Martin Wheeler, Michael Kohlhaas
BEST COSTUMES
Pascaline Chavanne, Renoir
BEST DEBUT FEATURE
Les Garçons Et Guillaume, A Table!, Guillaume Gallienne
BEST NEWCOMER (Male)
Pierre Deladonchamps, Stranger By The Lake
BEST NEWCOMER (Female)
Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue Is The Warmest Color

Oscars: Get to know the Best Actor race

Best Actor
Nominees: Christian Bale for American Hustle, Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave, and Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
Notable precursor wins: Dern wins National Board of Review Award, DiCaprio wins Golden Globe Award (Comedy), Ejiofor wins BAFTA Award, and McConaughey wins Broadcast Film Critics Association, Golden Globe (Drama), and Screen Actors Guild Awards
Current frontrunner: Matthew McConaughey
Next in line: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Dark horse: Bruce Dern
Time for the next version of my “Get to know” series, as we turn our attention now to the Best Actor race. As you can see above, the gentlemen making up this category are Christian Bale for American Hustle, Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave, and Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. This was a wide open and highly competitive race for most of the season, though lately the tide has greatly turned in McConaughey’s favor. Right now, he’s the odds on favorite to win the Oscar.
Basically, once the crowded field competing to be nominated was whittled down to these five, things clarified a bit. Bale was just happy to be nominated, while the other four shuffled back and forth a bit. Then, the major precursors really rallied around McConaughey, resulting in his current frontrunner status. Dern hasn’t had a win in a while that gives him much of a shot, while DiCaprio and Ejiofor have some, but not nearly on the level of McConaughey.
Now, with the Academy Awards just days away, McConaughey is the smart bet for Best Actor. If there’s going to be an upset, it’s going to be from Ejiofor. A Dern or DiCaprio win would be shocking at this point. Still, Ejiofor is pretty far behind McConaughey, so look for him to pick up a statue on Sunday evening. Anything could happen, but things seem pretty cut and dried now to me…
Stay tuned for the rest of the acting categories this week, with Best Actress up next!

Oscars: Get to know a Best Picture nominee: “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Terence Winter
Main cast members: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Cristin Milioti, Jean Dujardin, P.J. Byrne, Jon Favreau, Christine Ebersole, Shea Whigham, and Joanna Lumley
Number of Oscar nominations in total: 5
Other nominations besides Best Picture: Best Director (Scorsese), Best Actor (DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Hill), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Winter)
Notable precursor wins: Won Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globe Awards, Won Best Actor in a Comedy at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, and Won Best Adapted Screenplay from the National Board of Review
Chances at winning Best Picture: Slim to none, quite frankly
Chances at other Academy Award wins: A shutout is pretty likely, though DiCaprio has an outside chance to pull the upset in the Best Actor race
ANALYSIS OF OTHER OSCAR NOMINEES: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, HER, Nebraska, and Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street is the ninth (and final) film in my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” series, and it’s one last nominee that realistically has to look at the very nomination itself in this category as the only award that it can count on. For the longest time, it was sort of an awards season X factor, as no one quite knew if it would come out in 2013, let alone if it would be Oscar worthy. Well, it got in just under the wire and turned out to be easily the liveliest of the Best Picture contenders, inspiring some early talk that it could win. That hasn’t sustained, but Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio did get nominations as well, with the latter still having an outside chance of a victory in Best Actor. The likely result is a shutout for the movie, but it’s a memorable flick and an out of the box nomination from the Academy, regardless of anything else.
Working in The Wolf of Wall Street’s favor is how enthusiastic fans of the movie are and how successful it has been at the box office. This is a big hit and the most overtly funny flick in the lineup, so it’s able to differentiate itself from a lot of the more independent and serious minded films making up the nominees. The presence of DiCaprio and Scorsese certainly doesn’t hurt either. They took home the big prize once before for The Departed, [...]

Oscars: Get to know a Best Picture nominee: “Nebraska”

Directed by: Alexander Payne
Written by: Bob Nelson
Main cast members: Bruce Dern, June Squibb, Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk, and Stacy Keach
Number of Oscar nominations in total: 6
Other nominations besides Best Picture: Best Director (Payne), Best Actor (Dern), Best Supporting Actress (Squibb), Best Original Screenplay (Nelson), and Best Cinematography
Notable precursor wins: Won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival and Won Best Actor/Supporting Actor from the National Board of Review
Chances at winning Best Picture: At one point a more serious contender and currently still one of the five likeliest winners, it’s however most certainly a long shot at this juncture
Chances at other Academy Award wins: It’s likely to be shut out, but there’s an outside chance of an upset in the Best Actor race
ANALYSIS OF OTHER OSCAR NOMINEES: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity and HER.
Nebraska is the seventh film in my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” series, and it’s another nominee that has to look at the nomination itself as the real reward here, since it’s likely to be completely shut out. Earlier in the season it was considered a major threat and a potential dark horse to win a number of Academy Awards, but the buzz has really died down now. That’s a shame too, considering how at one point Bruce Dern was a real top tier contender for Best Actor. He could still swoop in for the upset win, but the likely result is that Alexander Payne’s movie goes home empty handed.
Working in Nebraka’s favor is how it’s the one film that clearly has the senior citizen vote. Oscar voters have long been pigeon-holed as old white men, and despite that being an oversimplification of things, there’s no denying that these older voters are there and the Academy has quite a few folks who like movies that speak to them. This one certainly does that.
If you’re looking for something that’s not in this film’s favor, it’s the fact that it really never got a precursor win of note. Aside from a win for Dern at Cannes that launched his candidacy, nothing truly of any importance happened for the flick. Nebraska got plenty of nominations throughout the season, but never that all important win. Had something happened at the Golden Globes for example, it would have set the movie up as a potential winner somewhere just because it had been seen [...]

The many facets of Leo DiCaprio: The Wolf of Wall Street

By Michael Russnow
As Oscar voters continue to mark their ballots until this Wednesday, I wonder what goes into their thinking? Do they vote specifically for what they believe is the best achievement of last year, a surprising performance and accomplishment or is it a cumulative assessment of someone’s career?
For all these reasons, and not just one, I’m going against the grain of what appears to be the general consensus and strongly suggest that Leonardo DiCaprio deserves the Oscar this year for The Wolf of Wall Street, even more than favorite Matthew McConaughey.
This doesn’t in any way diminish McConaughey’s performance in Dallas Buyers Club. It was terrific, and the subject matter of the film made it that much more compelling. However, DiCaprio’s execution, in my view, was even more powerful, in particular as it was a totally different characterization and portrayal than we’ve ever seen from the actor before.
It’s hard to realize sometimes that Leo has been in filmdom’s consciousness for twenty-one years, since he was elevated from his sitcom supporting role in ABC’s Growing Pains to the wow factor engendered in his major debut role opposite Robert De Niro in This Boy’s Life. Later in 1993 that respect was magnified when he stole What’s Eating Gilbert Grape from Johnny Depp and was rewarded with his first Oscar nomination at the age of nineteen.
For the next several years, he continued to intrigue audiences with a different assortment of characters, sometimes in mixed films such as Basketball Diaries and Total Eclipse, in more respected fare such as Marvin’s Room and Romeo and Juliet, and finally emerging as a superstar in Titanic.
Since then he has won fans and critical plaudits for his work in Catch Me If You Can, a young Howard Hughes in The Aviator, as a South African in Blood Diamond and an undercover policeman in The Departed, sometimes Oscar nominated, more times not and sometimes robbed of a nod as in the case of J. Edgar and last year’s Django Unchained.
Through it all, he has mostly been acclaimed for quirky dramatic performances until finally his well-known personal impishness came forth comedically in The Wolf of Wall Street. In this film, which I mostly liked but not entirely, Leo displayed so many facets, delivering emotional high points while also sometimes hysterically funny, that I wonder if his excellence has become so expected we don’t realize how different the role is and [...]

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