April 23, 2014

Tag Archives: Entertainment/Culture

Flight of Big-budget Films Costs 50,000 Jobs

The loss of big-budget movies like “The Hobbit” to New Zealand and “Iron Man 3” and “Oz, The Great and Powerful” to North Carolina and Michigan, is costing California nearly 50,000 jobs and $410 million in state and local tax revenues, according to a study released Thursday by the Southern California Association of Governments.
“Even the loss of only half of that spending cost the state a significant amount of economic activity,” the report states. “It is evident that (California) is losing ground to other states and nations.”
Among the findings: California continued to see its market share erode. The study found that 75 percent of the 41 live action feature films with production budgets in excess of $75 million were filmed outside of California in fiscal 2013.
The loss of “Iron Man 3” and “The Hobbit,” Parts 1 and 2, had a combined budget of $320 million, the study notes.
As it was, California’s Film and Television Tax Credit Program returned an impressive 11 percent return on investment in its first three years and helped generate $4.3 billion in economic activity and supported 22,300 jobs, according to the study.
Among the findings:
*Under the first three years of funding, 109 film projects were funded and completed.
*Those projects generated $247.7 million in state and local tax revenues, $4.3 billion in economic output and $1.6 billion in labor income.
*For every $1 of tax credit certificate issued, total economic activity in the state increased by $19.12, total state gross domestic product increased by $9.48, and $1.11 was returned to state and local governments in the form of tax revenues.
“You cannot look at this program and not see it is a formidable economic and fiscal benefit,” said Hasan Ikhrata, SCAG executive director. “California is very much at risk of losing its film industry, and without this program the past five years, the losses would have been even more painful.”
The report was commissioned by SCAG, the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization, and principally authored by Christine Cooper, vice president, economic and policy analysis, for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Oscars®: Muppets Most Wanted – What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: James Bobin
Written by: James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller
Main Cast: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey make up the main human actors, with various others voicing the Muppet cast members, plus cameos from tons of others in Hollywood
Past Oscar relations: The Muppets won Best Original Song (the song Man or Muppet was written by Bret McKenzie, who again is writing the songs here for Muppets Most Wanted)
Here is the next article in this new series on 2014 contenders hoping to compete for Oscar attention. Next (and second) up is James Bobin’s Muppets Most Wanted, which looks to capitalize on the prior films Oscar success (it won Best Original Song). The film is a sequel to the Oscar winning The Muppets, though this one is far more co-writer/director Bobin’s baby than last time, when he just directed and the vision was very much Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s (though Stoller still co-writes here). The spirit of the Muppets is still here though, as the gang goes on tour and has an international adventure that fits in very well with their past. Now, it’s going to hope that it can survive in our hearts and minds throughout the season and attempt to become another Oscar nominated Muppets movie.
What this flick has going in its favor is that it’s basically tailor made to receive a Best Original Song nomination. Many of the films in the franchise have showed up in that category, and this time around there are a number of catchy enough tunes to make it a very safe bet. The characters themselves are also just so charismatic and likable that you can’t help wanting to see more of them (remember the pseudo campaign to get them to host the Academy Awards telecast? I do), which is why whenever a new film of theirs comes out we talk about it as a potential dark horse contender for some bigger awards. I’m not sure about all of that this time around, but a Song citation seems likely to me.
Working against Muppets Most Wanted is that the movie is very slight and not anywhere near on the level of the last one (or the previous ones from years past). The movie is fun, but it feels like a sequel that mainly exists because the last one was successful, though cleverly they do comment on that very thing. Still, looking at this as any [...]

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®: The Top 25 (Best Original Screenplay)

Continuing a new weekly series I’m doing…we’re talking the top 25 Oscar winners in just about every single one of the Academy Award categories. Aside from the shorts and something like Best Sound Mixing like I mentioned previously, I’ll be hitting them all over the coming weeks and months, including of course the big eight categories.
Today I’ll even knock off the first of those big ones, the ever interesting Best Original Screenplay category. Depending on the category in question, I may wind up discussing the individual winners I’m citing specifically or just giving more of a broad overview of the winners, but for now, I’ll still keeping it simple early on. Like I said last week though, in all honesty, you all mostly just want to see the list anyway, so I have no problem obliging you there in that particular regard. All you have to do is just be patient over the next few paragraphs…
Best Original Screenplay is personally one of my favorite Oscar categories, due to the absolute creativity that you can see on display here. Voters sometimes even go out of their comfort zone in honoring scripts written for projects that they’d never touch in the Best Picture category (though that’s begun to change a bit). I think you’ll be able to see a pattern emerging among my winners, as some of their more out there choices have been my favorites. Maybe that says more about me than it does about members of the Academy, but hey, we should all be thankful that some of these screenplays were able to win those Oscars, as they’ve inspired countless other writers in the years since.
This week, for this screenplay category, what I’m going to do is give you the list right now, with a few words about each of the top 25 victors that I’ve chosen. The big eight categories cater to this style nicely, so that’s likely how it’ll go for all of those. Here we go:
25. American Beauty (Alan Ball) – The film hasn’t aged well, but the script itself remains scathingly funny to me. A satire of middle class life and mid life crises, Alan Ball hit on something here, at least at the time. He hasn’t been able to get back to that level since then with his work, but man did he deserve the Oscar for this one, no question about that.
24. Pillow [...]

Audiences are flocking to ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ at the Box Office

Happy Sunday everyone (my birthday weekend, if you haven’t heard too), here’s the weekly box office report for you fine ladies and gentlemen! Leading the way in a somewhat close race on this kind of quiet weekend was the holdover Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which rose from number two to number one with an estimated $12.2 million, taking advantage of a lack of particularly enticing new releases at the multiplex. At number two we had last week’s top grosser 300: Rise of an Empire, which hauled in an estimated $19.1 million this time around. Number three was the new release Need for Speed, which stole $17.8 million from paying customers, while Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club was number five with $8.3 million, and we also had one other new release in the top ten, which was Veronica Mars, transitioning from Kickstarter to theaters with about $2 million. I’ll have something to say about the great expansion for The Grand Budapest Hotel in a moment, but among the limited release openings, there was a nice mix. The best of the bunch was Bad Words, but also taking in a few bucks we had indies like Enemy and Le Week-End, though neither were hits.
I didn’t care one bit for Need for Speed, as it’s lacking even for video game adaptations, but it was notable that it didn’t do better. You’d think that with the popularity of the Fast and Furious franchise that this would have been like printing money, but no. It also likely won’t have legs either, which could make this a bit of a failure in the end. This weekend also saw audiences begin to send a message to Tyler Perry that he needs to try a little harder, as Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club made a fraction of what Perry’s movies usually do. Finally, Veronica Mars was aimed just at hardcore fans and that’s who showed up, so I can’t really say it did anything other than what was expected.
Among the notable holdovers in theaters, we have to discuss Wes Anderson’s flick. The Grand Budapest Hotel. Still playing in well under 100 theaters, it cracked the top ten, hitting number eight with $3.6 million. The big number though is the per theater average of over $55,000. Any which way that you slice it, Anderson has another hit on his hands, so we’ll be talking plenty more about [...]

Thinking Out Loud: Oscar® nominees/winners and the ‘Star Wars’ casting rumors

For this week’s random assortment of Thinking Out Loud ideas, I wanted to start by focusing in on the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII casting rumors briefly. Specifically, how J.J. Abrams and company have recently seemed to be honing in on Oscar nominees and winners for the cast. I’ll have some other small things below as well, but that’s the main bent that the column will have today. Anyway, let’s get started!
-Star Wars loves awards darlings, that much seems to be true. Just look at the names being mentioned for roles in the sequel…Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Saoirse Ronan to name a few. What do all of them have in common? With the exception of Cumberbatch and Jordan, they’re all Oscar nominees, and in the case of Nyong’o, she’s an Academy Award winner to boot. If nothing else, Abrams and company seem to be meeting or at least considering folks who’ve given a few acclaimed performances over the last couple of years. That’s a good way to keep me interested this sequel, though in all honesty, we’re all going to be seeing the film, regardless.
-Could Godzilla be worth considering for some bigger Oscar categories than just the technical ones? Trust me, I’m not saying we’ve got a Best Picture nominee on our hands, but at the same time, those two trailers have been outstanding, and with an up and coming director in Gareth Edwards inspiring confidence in its potential, I’m starting to wonder if there’s at least an outside chance that we’ll discuss it at some point. Remember, a few years ago we had a similar situation with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I’m 99% sure that it won’t get that nomination (or Best Director, though I suppose a Screenplay citation is an outside possibility), but hey…you never know.
-Finally, I’m writing this from Atlantic City, where I’m spending my birthday weekend (yes, happy birthday to me), and it made me wonder what the last movie was to use the town in a contemporary setting. Was it that Nicolas Cage flick Snake Eyes? Well, I hope not. Anyway, that was on my mind when I arrived last night, so I figured I’d share it with you all. If any screenwriters are reading this, perhaps you might want to consider setting your next project here? Just a thought…
Until next weekend [...]

Oscars®: Will either of the movies about doppelgangers be up the Academy’s alley?

Today, a small movie called Enemy opened in limited release, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and, well…Jake Gyllenhaal. In May, another small flick called The Double comes out, and that one stars Jesse Eisenberg alongside, you guessed it…Jesse Eisenberg. 2014 seems to be the year of the doppelganger, in addition to biblical epics as I mentioned a week or so ago. These are acting showcases through and through, so could Oscar bite for one or both of them? Honestly, I think they’re both too offbeat and weird for Academy attention, so instead of doing specific preview pieces on them and just going through the motions of talking about a likely to be ignored pair of films, I wanted to sort of discuss both of them a bit here in this sort of an article. These could be independent contenders for other awards, so it’s important to give the pair a moment in the sun here, if nothing else.
First up we have Enemy, which is partially notable for being the other movie that Gyllenhaal shot with his Prisoners director Denis Villenueve (and actually was filmed first, though it’s coming out this year as opposed to last…both played festivals around the same time however). Written by Javier Gullón and costarring Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon, this is a very dreamlike and Kafka-esque (you’ll understand why if you see it) look at identity. Gyllenhaal plays a teacher who sees a doppelganger of his when watching a movie and set out to meet the man. Things obviously don’t go as intended. This is a psychosexual thriller of sorts and about as far from mainstream as it gets. That being said, it’s impeccably made by Villenueve and expertly acted, so an open minded audience member or Oscar voter could find something to like here, particularly in terms of Gyllenhaal’s performance(s).
Now we come to The Double, which is co-written (along with Avi Korine) and directed by Richard Ayoade. Eisenberg costars here with Sally Hawkins, Wallace Shawn, Mia Wasikowska, Chris O’Dowd, and Noah Taylor, to name a few. This is a pitch black comedy about a meek office drone driven mad by the appearance of a smooth talking doppelganger who at first seems interested in helping him before attempting to take over his life. This is very much a dark comedy that almost seems uninterested in laughs, so that immediately will turn off some voters, but Eisenberg has rarely [...]

Oscars®: Which acting winner is most likely to win again, Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey?

When the most recent Academy Awards were given out a few weeks ago (it both feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago already), we crowned first time winners in first time nominees Matthew McConaughey (Best Actor for Dallas Buyers Club), Jared Leto (Best Supporting Actor for Dallas Buyers Club), and Lupita Nyong’o (Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years a Slave), while former winner and multiple nominee Cate Blanchett took home her second Oscar (Best Actress for Blue Jasmine). The fact that the majority of the group had never even been nominated before got me thinking…which of them is most likely to be like Blanchett and win again?
First of all, it’s possible that Blanchett could be next in line to win, giving her three Oscar victories, just like Meryl Streep. She always does phenomenal work and the Academy never hesitates to nominate her, so I wouldn’t be shocked at all if she wound up winning again. Next up for her is a film with Todd Haynes, and that could be pretty baity on its own. You never want to predict a third Academy Award for anyone, considering how rare that is, but if anyone out there can get there, it’s probably Blanchett. Especially if she ever works with Woody Allen again like she did here with Blue Jasmine…watch out.
Next in line, you have to think that McConaughey is just getting started. He came close-ish last year to a nomination for Magic Mike and this year he also had Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street in contention, so there’s no shortage of his roles under consideration. With upcoming projects uniting him with Christopher Nolan and Gus Van Sant, it’s a stretch to think that another nomination at least isn’t in his future, if not a win. We’re in the middle of the so called McConaissance, so I think he’s going to become an Academy favorite for some time.
As for Leto, it really depends on if he focuses on music or movies going forward. He’s equally talented at both, so if he makes himself available for films, I could certainly see voters citing him again. He’s proven himself previously with work like Requiem for a Dream, so Dallas Buyers Club was basically just a reminder of his skills. As long as he continues to consistently act, I can see him being on the Oscar radar. We’ll see though.
Lastly, in the case of [...]

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 [...]

Could ‘True Detective’ have been an Oscar player if it were a film?

I don’t watch a lot of television, honestly. Most of my time is filled up with movies…for obvious reasons. Every so often though, a show catches my eye, and True Detective was one of those. Eight episodes later, I think I saw an all time great TV series. Since I’m a film guy though, it got me thinking about the awards chances of the show, particularly if it had been one long movie (lets say three hours instead of the eight it actually is) instead. Yes, we all know it’ll do well with the Emmys and Golden Globes next year, but could it have been an Oscar player too?
If True Detective had been an epic motion picture instead of an anthology television series, I truly believe that it would have caught the Academy’s attention. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but considering how the show wrapped up the season, I feel like it would have been a surefire Best Picture nominee and perhaps even a winner. It’s an incredibly dark show, but the final moments brought in some unexpected optimism, and Oscar voters love a happy ending, as we all know. Since both No Country for Old Men and The Silence of the Lambs both won Best Picture, a show that has much in common with both (to me at least) could very well have followed in their footsteps with the big prize.
Among the actors, both Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson would be surefire nominees for Best Actor, with McConaughey undeniably a frontrunner (perhaps both of them if Harrelson went Supporting). The women on the show weren’t handled quite as well, but Michelle Monaghan really did shine when she had opportunities, so I could definitely have seen a Best Supporting Actress citation coming her way.
You can’t leave out director Cary Joji Fukunaga and writer Nic Pizzolatto, who saw this vision through to the end. Fukunaga made a visual rich show that looked better than some of the most beautiful films of last year, while Pizzolatto created a dense procedural that turned out in the end to be a poignant character study. If that’s not Oscar friendly, I don’t know what is. One or both could have won, though I’d have expected Best Director and Best Original Screenplay nominations for both.
Down the line, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing would be locks too, especially considering the now famous long take featuring [...]

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