April 24, 2014

Tag Archives: Entertainment/Culture

Oscars’ Billion Viewer Envelope

“And the envelope, please….”
It is one of Hollywood’s most iconic phrases, uttered by presenters at the Academy Awards each year and followed by another equally famous quote: “And the Oscar goes to….”
But throughout much of Oscar’s history whenever the pinprick moment arrived when a celebrity presenter would open the envelope and announce the winning nominee, there was nothing special about the envelope itself as opposed to the golden statuette that the winners would clutch while thanking whomever on live TV.
That is, until Marc Friedland decided that the Oscar envelope needed to be its own icon.
The L.A. stationer had an idea: design a classy-looking envelope, that was easy to open and that would provide a treasured keepsake to the winners along with the glittering golden statuette that they clutched in their hands in triumph.
Friedland, owner of Marc Friedland Couture Communications, persuaded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to have him design an envelope that would not only look elegant to the 1 billion global TV viewers but also be constructed in such a way that celebrity presenters wouldn’t struggle opening the envelopes to the groans and laughter of audiences.
“When I started thinking about this, I wanted something that would be timeless, involving the glamour of Hollywood, but not a period piece. But also something that transcended fashion and trends,” Friedland, 54, told HollywoodNews. “We had to design something that looks great and performs well, too. Like the quintessential Hollywood actress who has to look good on screen but also be talented.”
On Sunday, March 2, the Academy Awards will again be featuring Friedland-designed envelopes. This will mark the fourth year that Friedland’s envelopes will be in use.
And, since there are two dozen categories, Friedland noted, only the presenters and winners will be seen touching the envelopes, making the moment even more special.
Each envelope is handcrafted out of four different papers using 10 different processes, he explains.
The outside of each envelope is made of metallic-gold paper stock with subtle repeats of the Oscar statuettes.
Inside the envelope, the creators note, is a heavyweight ecru card featuring deco gold foil and is accented with a gold-leaf embossed Oscar statuette along with the phrase, “And the Oscar goes to…” The winner’s name is printed in charcoal ink and is mounted onto a matching red lacquer hand-wrapped frame. The back of the card introduces a new feature, indicating the specific [...]

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 [...]

Can the Oscars save CNN?

It seems that everybody is benefiting from the Oscar season…film festivals, awards shows, broadcast and cable TV networks, entertainment magazines and websites.
So, can the Oscars save ratings starved CNN?
The cable news channel has seen its ratings languishing for some time now.
As Mediate recently reported, “On Valentine’s Day Friday night, CNN’s evening slate of shows had a disastrous night, failing to rate above 66K viewers in the key 25-54 demo from 5-10 p.m. ET. The network was in 4th place across the board during those hours with Anderson Cooper 360 and Piers Morgan Live both at 66K in the demo. Erin Burnett OutFront at 7 p.m. drew just 49K in the demo.”
We’re not saying one is related to the other, but on Wednesday, CNN announced it was kicking off a number of Oscar-related telecasts leading up to the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, March 2.
On Thursday at 10 p.m. ET, Krista Smith, senior west coast editor of Vanity Fair and a CNN contributor, will host CNN Spotlight: And the Nominees Are? The hour-long show will feature Smith’s interviews with Oscar nominees Amy Adams, Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong’o and Jonah Hill.
Among the revelations Smith unearths:
“Amy Adams reveals that when she signed on to work with David O. Russell again for American Hustle, they didn’t have a script until like a week before,” a press release touting the show states.
The release goes on: “…Jared Leto tells Smith that he stayed in the Dallas Buyers Club character Rayon while filming: ‘I was walking through Whole Foods and I got looks from people and it was a real look of condemnation, of judgment, of disgust. And that was powerful to get to understand. Because I’m sure Rayon and the Rayons of the world get that look all the time—and have to deal with that in a much more real way than I did.”
On Thursday, Feb. 27, at 9 p.m. ET, the cable network will telecast CNN: And the Oscar Goes To? a two-hour special from Turner Classic Movies featuring great moments from 85 years of Academy Awards ceremonies, including never before seen behind-the-scenes ceremony footage from the archives of Hollywood Newsreel.
From Feb. 27 to March 2, CNN will “air live reports, interviews and take an inside at all the big events in and around the industry’s crowning event. From the rolling out of the red carpet to the behind-the-scenes stories [...]

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

Directed by: Spike Jonze
Written by: Spike Jonze
Main cast members: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara, and Portia Doubleday
Number of Oscar nominations in total: 5
Other nominations besides Best Picture: Best Original Screenplay (Jonze), Best Production Design, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song
Notable precursor wins: Won Best Original Screenplay at the Writers Guild of America Awards, Won Best Screenplay at the Golden Globe Awards, and Won Best Film/Best Director from the National Board of Review
Chances at winning Best Picture: It’d be an absolute shock if it managed to win Best Picture, so it’s slim to none here
Chances at other Academy Award wins: It’s the frontrunner for Best Original Screenplay, while it’s not impossible for any of its tech nominations to turn into upset wins.
ANALYSIS OF OTHER OSCAR NOMINEES: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity and HER.
Her is the six film in my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” series, and it’s another nominee that has to consider the nomination itself to be the real reward, at least in this category. That being said, the nod (along with all of its noms overall) is really something to admire. Such a singular and unique movie being nominated for more than a token Oscar or two is a nice change of pace for the Academy. Especially considering that it scored not just a Best Picture citation but a Best Original Screenplay as well, there are voters here who are very fond of this film, and that pleases me to no end. Regardless of anything else, it’s nothing like any other nominee this year, or really in history I’d argue, so kudos to Spike Jonze and company for such fine work. He may not be a serious Best Picture contender, but Jonze is likely to win the Original Screenplay Oscar, so the flick isn’t too likely to go home empty handed regardless.
Working in Her’s favor is just how different and romantic it is. The film has connected with so many people, arguably in a way that no other nominee has been able to do. Members of the Academy were taken by this movie in more than one way, honoring not just the film itself and it’s writing, but the production design and musical components as well. Multiple tech nominations are a sure sign of widespread support. Without it, you have no chance at [...]

Man behind “Noah” survey: “We are not hired guns…”

Chris Stone, the Raleigh, N.C.-based strategic branding executive behind a faith-based survey that indicated a lack of Christian support for Paramount Pictures $125 million Biblical epic Noah on Tuesday denied that his agency is a stalking horse for any clients with a political agenda.
“We are not hired guns out there,” Stone told HollywoodNews. “…We did it (the survey) as an advocate for the (faith driven consumer) community.”
He also stressed that his company, the Stone Agency, is not doing the bidding of the Republican Party with its issues-oriented campaigns, like the recent one in which it spearheaded a petition-drive to pressure the cable station A&E to lift the ban on Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for incendiary remarks he had made in GQ magazine.
“We advocate more on philosophical grounds than for political candidates…,” Stone explained, adding, “We have no contractual relationship with the GOP hierarchy.”
The Noah survey has not gone unnoticed in Hollywood, either.
“It was not designed as a scientific poll,” Stone told HollywoodNews in a telephone interview. “It was designed as a survey of a particular community.“ He noted that the tally was “4,800 to 101” and said that “a professional came up with that number.”
Stone stressed that the respondents weren’t specifically being critical of the film, which has yet to be released, but were saying “that doesn’t really resonate with me and, based upon that, I don’t have a significant interest in seeing it.”
Stone made his remarks before Paramount made public an internal research study challenging the trustworthiness of the Faith Driven Consumers survey, which was cited in an article posted on Variety.com.
The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday said that Paramount took the unusual step of revealing internal studio research to counter the survey’s results.
“The survey question that had the 98 percent response rate did not contain any reference to the film Noah, despite the fact that the Variety reporting implied that it did,” THR quotes the internal research as stating.
“Nielsen’s National Research Group (NRG), the industry’s decades long standard for measuring prerelease tracking of feature films (and other entertainment offerings), is tracking Noah and has gauged, with still six weeks to go before the film’s release and from self-defined ‘very religious’ moviegoers, that 83 percent of those aware of Noah in the pre-release tracking have expressed interest in seeing the film,” the studio statement continues, according to THR.
In the controversy over Duck Dynasty, A&E [...]

Roger Deakins won’t be returning to shoot the next James Bond film

I don’t know about any of you, but one of my absolute favorite parts of the last James Bond film Skyfall was the cinematography of Roger Deakins. Arguably the most talented director of photography in the business, Deakins is an absolute master and rightly was nominated for an Oscar for his work on that movie. That was his tenth Academy Award nomination at the time, and he’s since added another one this year for Prisoners. Sadly, he still hasn’t won, though it’s possible that he could pull an upset and finally score a win next month (don’t count on it though). Still, the job he did on Skyfall with director Sam Mendes was stunning, so I was looking forward to seeing them team up again on the sequel/next installment of the franchise. Alas, it appears like that won’t be happening.
Yes, reports have come out today stating that Deakins won’t be joining Mendes on the movie, most likely due to scheduling conflicts. He’s obviously one of the most in demand cinematographers in the business, so it stands to reason that the allure of something new trumped coming back to shoot a sequel. It obviously puts a bit of a damper on the Skyfall sequel, but with Deakins likely going to be teaming up with his longtime collaborators Joel and Ethan Coen again soon (though there’s nothing official about a new project for them right now), there’s a potential bright side to this news at least.
If you’re looking for when Deakins could finally win his long deserved Oscar, it could be next year for his work on the Angelina Jolie-directed World War II flick Unbroken, which could have some amazing visual components. That’s clearly putting the cart before the horse though, so I’ll steer clear of that for now, but keep that possibility in the back of your minds.
Regardless, this is our first Bond related news in a while, so that’s something, though it’s not exactly the most ideal news. We’ll all be there no matter who shoots the picture though, so it’s not exactly a deal breaker or anything of the sort. The technical prowess of Skyfall just spoiled us is all…

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 [...]

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

Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Written by: Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón (reportedly with some uncredited collaboration by George Clooney as well)
Main cast members: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and Ed Harris (voice)
Number of Oscar nominations in total: 10
Other nominations besides Best Picture: Best Director (Cuarón), Best Actress (Bullock), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects
Notable precursor wins: Tied for Best Picture at the Producers Guild of America Awards, Won Best Director at the Directors Guild of America Awards, Won Best Director at the Golden Globe Awards, Won Best Director and Best British Film at the BAFTA Awards,
Chances at winning Best Picture: One of the top three contenders for the award and a definite co-frontrunner, if not THE frontrunner
Chances at other Academy Award wins: A sure fire win in Best Director, along with Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects, though it could legitimately win every technical award that it’s nominated for
ANALYSIS OF OTHER OSCAR NOMINEES: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity and HER.
Gravity is the fifth film in my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” series, and it’s the other main contender in the category. In fact, it’s probably got the best chance of the bunch to win. Sure, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if 12 Years a Slave took home Best Picture, and I’d be one of the few not surprised by an American Hustle win, but still…Gravity is the most likely of that trio. It tied with Hustle for the most nominations overall, has picked up some strong precursor attention, and will likely dominate the tech categories at the Oscar ceremony. That gives it a leg up on the competition for sure. It’ll likely come down to if voters are opposed to citing a science fiction film as their Best Picture winner. If they don’t mind, then this movie is probably winning the Oscar.
Working in Gravity’s favor is just how significant its wins have been and how rare a split between Best Picture and Best Director is. Alfonso Cuarón has dominated the Best Director race, so his win is a slam dunk. With the flick tied for the most nominations overall and a prime competitor for the top prize, it’ll be all too easy for Academy members to not split their ballot. It may not have won the [...]

“The Lego Movie” repeats as Box Office champ this weekend

Happy Sunday everyone, time for the weekly box office report! Leading the way this weekend once again was The LEGO Movie, which had a tremendous second week hold, taking in an estimated $48.8 million, again easily taking the top spot. The animated film bested a trio of 80′s movie remakes and an original title in terms of the other new releases. The comedy redo About Last Night opened very strongly for an estimated $28 million, proving that whatever Kevin Hart is in makes a few bucks, while the high profile remake of RoboCop had a middling gross of $21 million. Given the budget, that has to be a bit on the disappointing side. The new incarnation of Endless Love lost a lot of Valentine’s Day viewers to the more well received About Last Night and only made $13.3 million. As for Winter’s Tale, that supposedly un-filmable novel became a largely ignored film, as it only took in $7.7 million. Among the limited release openings, Beijing Love Story did decently well, while no other independent features of that ilk have reported their weekend grosses as of right now.
The LEGO Movie now is surely the start of a franchise, while The Monuments Men overcame less than stellar reviews to open better than expected, especially considering the bad buzz that surrounded the move from Oscar season last year. As for Vampire Academy, plain and simple…no one went to see it.
Among the notable holdovers in theaters besides The LEGO Movie, The Monuments Men finished fourth with another $15 million, while Ride Along finished six with another $8.7 million.
Here’s what the top ten looked like at the box office for this particular weekend:
1. The LEGO Movie – $48,810,000
2. About Last Night – $27,000,000
3. RoboCop – $21,500,000
4. The Monuments Men – $15,000,000
5. Endless Love – $13,380,000
6. Ride Along – $8,759,000
7. Winter’s Tale – $7,785,000
8. Frozen – $5,855,000
9. Lone Survivor – $4,076,000
10. That Awkward Moment – $3,337,000

Chavez Film: The Producer Strikes Back

The producers of a new biopic about the late labor leader Cesar Chavez are rushing to tamp down a flickering controversy appearing on Latino social media over whether unionized workers were fired and non-union personnel employed on the film.
The allegation is being vigorously disputed by lead producerPablo Cruz, who said the production complied with all union regulations andthat all the actors, either those from the U.S. or from Mexico, were unionmembers. He did concede, however, that extras hired in Mexico were non-unionsince there is no equivalent of an extras union in Mexico.
‘If there was a union for extras (in Mexico), we would havehad them, but there wasn’t one,’ Cruz said.
Cesar Chavez, which is directed by Diego Luna and stars Michael Pena, America Ferrara, Rosario Dawson and John Malkovich,is scheduled to be released March 28 in more than 600 theaters by Pantelion Films.
The movie was shot predominately in Sonora, Mexico, for reasons that had to do with the grape-picking season and how differently grapesare harvested today in the Central Valley of California, as opposed to decades ago when Cesar Chavez was organizing farm workers.
Cruz also rejected claims that they were a ‘runaway’ production. ‘We are a Mexican production company. We are the company who managed to finance this film. We are not a U.S. company.’
If the union/non-union issues are not satisfactorily dealt with, they could impact the film’s perception, especially in the Latino community, where Chavez’s struggle to organize California farm workers lifted him in many eyes into the Latino equivalent of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The controversy, which has been around for a few years, erupted anew earlier this week when the website Latino Rebels published a story under the headline: ‘Critics of New Chavez Movie Allege Producers Used Non-Union Workers and Outsourced Workto Mexico.’
The source of this allegation was an L.A. activist namedChamba Sanchez, who wrote on his Facebook page that he had received an emailasking if he would help promote the film. He derisively questioned why he would want Luna to get rich?
‘Furthermore,’ Sanchez posted, ‘I am currently researching into allegations that people behind this movie fired unionized workers and outsourced part or the entire production to Mexico. This is quite disturbing. If this is the case, Cesar Chavez must be spinning in his grave. And a bigger question: Why his family would agree to this?’
‘We never fired anybody to hire a non-union [...]

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