April 18, 2014

Tag Archives: Human Interest

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

Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella, Denis Leary, Tom Welling, and many others
Past Oscar relations: Ivan Reitman was nominated for co-producing Up in the Air and Kevin Costner won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for Dances with Wolves
Here now we have the next article in this series on 2014 contenders hoping to compete for Oscar attention at the 2015 ceremony. Next up is Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day, which hopes to essentially be the next Moneyball, just with the NFL Draft as its focus. That film was a bit of an aberration, but this one has a bit in common with it, so perhaps the Academy is more open to sports movies than they have been in the past? Reitman has sports film icon Kevin Costner in the lead role, so that’s certainly a plus, along with a strong ensemble that includes Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella, and Denis Leary, to name a few. They’re in the service of a fine film, one of the better ones to come out this year so far, in my humble opinion. Being a quality bit of cinema is the first step towards becoming a contender.
What this flick has going in its favor is a crowd pleasing plot and a top notch script, not to mention a great role for Costner to sink his teeth into. Costner always is great in sports films, and this is no exception. Reitman also shows an able hand at drama, something he’s rarely attempted during his illustrious career. As for the screenplay, Black List winning scribes Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman have crafted something that both hardcore football fans like myself and newbies can enjoy equally. Moneyball was able to do this, and that screenplay damn near won an Oscar, so especially in the writing field, this movie should have a chance to contend for a nomination.
Working against Draft Day is that it is a sports movie without an awards centric pedigree. Yes, it has a Black List winning script, but that doesn’t always make a huge difference. Costner also has never been nominated for one of his sports outings, so it’s likely that he won’t break that trend here. That makes it Best Original Screenplay or nada in all likelihood, and having that narrow a focus makes it a dicey proposition. Draft Day [...]

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 [...]

Oscars®: Under the Skin – Scarlett Johansson – What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Jonathan Glazer
Written by: Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer, based on the novel by Michael Faber
Main Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Lynsey Taylor Mackay, and others
Past Oscar relations: None, though Scarlett Johansson has received four Golden Globe nominations and twice came very close to Academy Award nominations
Here now is the newest article in this series on 2014 contenders hoping to compete for Oscar attention. Next up today is Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, which hopes to be the sort of heady indie contender that voters every so often can fall under the spell of. Glazer’s acclaimed Sexy Beast wasn’t able to attract enough votes, but can this one do better? Armed with an amazing performance by Scarlett Johansson and some incredible visuals/sound design, Glazer has a magnificent movie, though one that could prove to be a hard sell.
What this flick really has going in its favor is Johansson’s acting and Glazer’s ambition. She’s absolutely phenomenal here, possibly even giving the best performance of her career. It’s a brilliant turn by the talented actress, showing a brand new side to her. Glazer coaxed this out of her and it really turns heads. The film is presented in such a way that Johansson is front and center the whole time, so her success is very much the movie’s as well. She blew me away, quite frankly. In a fair world, she’d be a lock for a Best Actress nomination.
Working against Under the Skin is that the movie is very challenging and will leave some scratching their heads. Nothing is spelled out for you and a lot of the film is presented in a rather obtuse way. At times, it even comes close to pretentiousness, though it never reaches that point. Still, when you make voters work for it, sometimes they opt to just move on to something easier, and I expect that to be the case here with this one. It’s a shame too, since Johansson deserves to win an Oscar for this, but even a nomination will be hard to come by.
So, can this one be a player at all? Simply put, the odds are against it, though the independent precursors will likely love it. Basically, I’d be pretty surprised if it held on until the end of awards season in any substantial way, but stranger things have certainly happened. The flick will really have an uphill battle, but Under [...]

Spotlight on the Stars: Scarlett Johansson

After last week’s look at Jennifer Lawrence, I think this is now going to become another weekly series for me, tentatively called “Spotlight on the Stars”. Each week, I’ll look at an actor/actress/filmmaker that I’d like to celebrate in some way. It could be due to something of theirs coming out that weekend or just because I feel they deserve 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 (which is technically the second one in the series, though I didn’t have a snappy name for the inaugural Lawrence one), I wanted to take a look at Scarlett Johansson. To some, she’s merely a pretty face, but when I look at her, not only do I see a beautiful woman, I also see a criminally underrated actress. From her early days as a child star of sorts to this very weekend when she has a wonderfully complex leading role in an independent film called Under the Skin coming out, Johansson has way more to offer than some realize. Folks also don’t always catch on to why she’s chosen some of the projects that she has, but one look at the filmmakers that she’s acted for will give you some clue as to her decisions.
Johansson has worked with directors like Woody Allen, Sofia Coppola, Cameron Crowe, Brian De Palma, Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze, Christopher Nolan, and Joss Whedon. You can argue that one or two of the movies she did with these auteurs aren’t particularly great, but she’s certainly got an eye for working with talented people. That’s usually the mark of a strong actress with a good head on her shoulders. No one makes perfect decisions all the time, but even when the project might be misguided, usually there’s an A-list director that’s been a part of the decision to sign on.
Just as an actress, she’s got more range than a lot of people give her credit for. Compare her performances in Her, Lost in Translation, Match Point, and now with Under the Skin, and it’s as if there’s a different actress on display each time. Those four Golden Globe nominations didn’t happen by accident, even if sadly it never translated into an Oscar nod. The Academy in particular missed the boat on a nom for either Lost in Translation or Match [...]

Websites Offer Exclusive Hollywood Access

By ROBERT W. WELKOS
“Don’t Miss this Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Meet Miley Cyrus.”
That’s just one of the “celebrities for hire” listed on a website called Millionaire’s Concierge out of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., that also dangles the opportunity for its presumably rich clientele exclusive entre to major movie premieres, awards shows, walk-on roles “in the Hottest TV Shows or Films,” and many other luxury experiences.
“The World’s Biggest Stars Come to You!” the website exults.
“Hiring a celebrity for your next party won’t just provide you with the opportunity to meet a beloved star—it produces enormous entertainment value for you and your guests. Whether you’re planning a sweet-sixteen birthday party, celebrating a recent accomplishment, or simply painting the town red for the sake of it, a celebrity performance will turn your special occasion into an unforgettable experience.” Celebrities can also help “get your message across” at corporate events, the website notes.
It then lists such “celebrities for hire” as the Beach Boys, Blink 182, Jethro Tull, Julio Iglesias, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sharon Stone, Jim Carrey, Sylvester Stalone (sic), Oscar De La Hoya, Jenny McCarthy, Donald Trump, Patrick Stewart “and many many more.”
It’s all about the public’s insatiable desire to be close to celebrities and big events, if you’ve got the money.
“It never goes out of style,” Doug Turner, owner of Millionaire’s Concierge, told HollywoodNews in a brief phone interview.
“I serve rich people all over the world,” he added, noting that he started his company 17 years ago.
The website includes a video segment that appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show which detailed how his company caters to its wealthy clients, like the time Turner said they dropped 50 dozen roses into a swimming pool from a helicopter for a client’s anniversary. The Oprah segment does not mention celebrities for hire.
A spokeswoman for Trump said that while the famed billionaire businessman may have met the owner of Millionaire’s Concierge years back in Florida, in any case, she has asked that Trump’s name be removed from the website.
“(Trump) has no affiliation with Millionaire’s Concierge and he does not do these kind of things,” she said. “He works with speaking engagement bureaus. Mr. Trump is one of the highest paid speakers in the world. These are legitimate organizations. He would never do this.”
HollywoodNews reached out to representatives of DiCaprio, Cyrus, Stone, Stallone and Carrey and have yet to hear back.
Millionaire’s Concierge also offers access to special Hollywood [...]

Leonardo DiCaprio: Who’s the most overdue for an Academy Award?

A lot of times during the months directly following the Academy Awards telecast, people talk about who’s overdue for an Oscar nomination, but I think the more interesting conversation is to discuss who’s already been nominated repeatedly by the Academy but has yet to win an Oscar. It’s one thing to fight for that first nod, or to have a nom to your credit but nothing else, but what of the people who’ve been cited with nominations multiple times by Oscar voters but never seem to make it to the finish line? Recently, I was thinking about just that, and actually came up with a list of some of the folks in the industry that are most overdue for a win.
Below you’ll find a group of ten previously nominated by the Academy that I think should have won by now. They consist of actors, actresses, filmmakers, and technical craftsmen, all of whom define the word “overdue” to me. There are many others, like Ridley Scott for example, but I limited it to ten. Take a look:
10. David O. Russell- With five nominations to his credit now, Russell is undoubtedly on a hot streak right now, and it’s firmly entrenched him as someone due for a win. The Academy clearly is enamored with him, so it really seems to only be a matter of time now. Not everyone is thrilled with that prospect, but I’m not among them. He’s more than deserving at this point in his career.
9. Julianne Moore – A quartet of nods later, Moore is very high up on many lists of the actresses who desperately need an Oscar. I obviously don’t have her quite as high up on this list, but she’s clearly only one great role away from being on that stage accepting the statue. My guess is that it’ll be for a supporting performance, but time will ultimately tell there.
8. Christopher Nolan – Despite often snubbing Nolan in some key categories, the Academy has still cited him a trio of times, though without any sign of a win yet. They’ve notably kept him far away from the Best Director field, so when his first win comes, I suspect that it’ll be for a Screenplay category…that’s just a guess though. Perhaps Interstellar this year can do it for him?
7. Tom Cruise – There was a time when it was inconceivable to think that Cruise wouldn’t have [...]

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

Directed by: Drake Doremus
Written by: Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones
Main Cast: Felicity Jones, Guy Pearce, Mackenzie Davis, Amy Ryan, Matthew Daddario, Ben Shenkman, Kyle MacLachlan, and others
Past Oscar relations: Amy Ryan was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Gone Baby Gone
Here now is the next article in this new series on 2014 contenders hoping to compete for Oscar attention. Next up is Drake Doremus’ Breathe In, which hopes to build on his previous indie contender Like Crazy. That film ultimately fell short, so armed with some goodwill from that movie, can this one do better? Doremus once again has Felicity Jones in a main role, this time with Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan, and newcomer Mackenzie Davis among her costars. It’s a romantic drama with strains of the dysfunctional family genre thrown in, but it’s the way that this admittedly well worn story is told that sets it apart, particularly in what it allows its cast to do.
What this flick has going in its favor are the performances, particular the one from Jones. She’s phenomenal, perhaps even better than she was in Like Crazy. Veteran actor Pearce is very good too, while newcomer Davis makes an impression as well. Ryan is again a useful supporting player too, but Jones is the one you really remember when all is said and done. If anyone where to come out of this movie in terms of awards hopefuls, it’s her.
Working against Breathe In is that the movie has an almost total lack of buzz. It debuted a year ago at the Sundance Film Festival, so all that time waiting to come out didn’t do it any favors. It literally took over a year to begin screening for critics, playing a few other festivals, but mostly sitting on the shelf, and that creates the perception of something that’s not exactly top notch. The quality is there for this film, but I have my doubts that most voters will wind up even seeing it later on in 2014 when they begin thinking about awards and nominations.
So, can this be a player at all? Simply put, the odds aren’t at all in its favor. I’d be shocked if it held on until the end of awards season, but crazier things have happened, I suppose. The flick will really have an uphill battle, but Breathe In deserves to be seen regardless of that, so hopefully people find [...]

Some positivity about Jennifer Lawrence for a change

Maybe I’m nuts, but it seems to me that everyone is out to get Jennifer Lawrence these days, and I’m not sure why. She’s an incredibly talented young actress, reportedly a nice person, and has good taste in the projects she chooses to work on, so what gives? Especially this past year with her Supporting Actress candidacy for American Hustle, it became the sort of situation where it appeared that the world would end if she won a second Oscar. It makes no sense to me, but I figured I’d take this opportunity to praise her a bit and turn the tide back towards respect for the Academy Award winning thespian.
It was only a few short years ago that Lawrence was being heralded for her breakthrough work in Winter’s Bone. That first Academy Award nomination she received for that film led to her winning two years ago for Silver Linings Playbook, and suddenly she was an “it” girl, combined of course with the success of The Hunger Games franchise. That led to celebrity, but remember, it all started with her talent, even in supporting roles in independent films like The Beaver and Like Crazy. Many seem to forget, but she established herself as one of the top young actresses in the business well before she seemed to conquer Hollywood.
American Hustle seemed to turn the tide for some reason. Maybe it was because the flick itself didn’t turn people on in the same way that her prior movie with David O. Russell did, but she went from a beloved superstar to a superstar that many seemed to love to bash. It boggles my mind. Am I missing something here? To me, she’s not overexposed or wearing out her welcome. On the flip side, she’s only first getting into a groove, so the best should still be yet to come from Lawrence.
Going forward, people are already licking their chops about her upcoming performance in Serena and a potential new collaboration with Russell, but I just don’t get it. More than once I’ve come across criticism of her that has nothing to do with her talent as an actress. Isn’t that what counts? Maybe I’m nuts, but that’s what I like to focus on. That’s just me though.
In summation, I think Lawrence is a fine young woman and deserves some more respect than she’s been getting. I try to keep a positive outlook [...]

Oscars®: The Top 25 (Best Visual Effects)

Continuing on with a new weekly series I’m doing here at the site…we’ll be talking the top 25 Oscar winners in just about every single one of the Academy Award categories out there. Aside from the shorts and something like Best Sound Editing or 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. I’m also potentially going to do one that doesn’t exist (a fictitious Best Ensemble category), but that’s just an idea I currently am toying with. We’ll see about that one.
Today I’ll be knocking off another one of the technical categories, with this one being the always interesting Best Visual Effects field. Depending on the category in question, I may wind up discussing the individual winners I’m citing pretty 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 over the past few weeks 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…
This time around, I’m just going the overview route, since seeing is believing for this category more than anything else. Also it really just depends on what sort of effects you prefer. We’ve got traditional in camera effects, blended animation, computer generated effects, and of course motion capture as well. Some folks might be partial to the older winners, while some really get it up for the newest winners. Me? Well, I’m caught somewhere in between.
I’ll basically just discuss my top ten a bit. To me, the best winner of this category so far to date is
Jurassic Park, which captured the imagination in a way that few other works have ever been able to do. Some other recent and groundbreaking winners in my top echelon include Avatar, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Gravity. In most of those cases, they basically invented new technology for their films, and that’s worth something to me. I also have the unique Who Framed Roger Rabbit high up, as well as the immortal classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Those movies have stood the test of time in a big way. I also have a personal favorite flick [...]

Lionsgate Extends Deal with Grindstone

Lionsgate, whose recent success has been fueled by “The Hunger Games” franchise, has extended its long-term relationship with Grindstone Entertainment by signing new multi-year agreements with Grindstone President and CEO Barry Brooker and principal Stan Wertlieb, it was announced Thursday.
Grindstone’s films include the thrillers “Empire State,” starring Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, and “Frozen Ground,” starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack.
”They are an important part of the Lionsgate family and a key component of our slate,” Lionsgate Co-COO and Motion Picture Group President Steve Beeks. “We expect them to continue to serve as a reliable source of profitable films featuring world-class talent in the years to come and, as they continue to evolve as a label, we look forward to elevating our Grindstone relationship to the next level.”

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