Sunday, January 27, 2013

'Django' and the American Culture of Violence

I went to Quentin Tarantino's latest bloodfest Django Unchained at the local multiplex yesterday in order to be able to say I had seen all nine nominees for the Best Picture Oscar. While driving to the cinema, I was sort of dreading it and looked upon the outing as more of an obligation so I could win the Oscar pool at an upcoming award-show party rather than as a pleasure. I was not wild about Pulp Fiction and only watched the first 20 minutes of Inglorious Bastards on TV and knew the director-screenwriter's penchant for ultraviolence. But whoa, did this picture blow me away and not with disgust.

Django is sort of an anti-spaghetti Western  or an inside-out Gone With the Wind. Tarantino uses the cliches of the lone gunfighter, Clint Eastwood movies to rip apart the brutal culture of America's slavery-lovin' past. (It's interesting that another Best Picture nominee, Lincoln, also deals with the issue but through a John Ford, feel-good Steven Spielberg lens.) The title character (Jamie Foxx) is a slave who joins a white, German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to kill evil racists outlaws disguised as upstanding citizens. After many adventures, the duo attempt to rescue Django's wife (Kerry Washington), now bound to the dandyish Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio) at his massive plantation Candyland, a symbol for the entire corrupt slave system.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

News Flashes for Today: Manilow, McKellen, Stewart, etc.

Barry Manilow has bronchitis and will have to reschedule several of his Broadway performances this week.

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in Waiting for Godot
The stars of X-Men, The Hobbit, and Star Trek will tackle Pinter and Beckett next season: Patrick Stewart and Ian MacKellen will headline a repertory of Pinter's No Man's Land Beckett's Waiting for Godot on Broadway in October. Will fanboys be confused by the existentialist dialogue?

Speaking of fanboys, episode two of King of Nerds is on tonight. I caught episode one last night On Demand and it was a lot of fun. I'm probably the only person on America who will DVR both this and the season premiere of Project Runway. I guess I'm a geek fashionista. (Finally caught up with the finale of PR All-Stars from last week. Only bitchy comment: Uli's Winter Wonderland models looked like a cross between Tilda Swinton in The Chronicles of Narnia and the Cybermen from Doctor Who.)

Julie Taymor will direct A Midsummer Night's Dream for Theatre for a New Audience's new space in Brooklyn as her first post-Spider-Man project.

SAG Awards are this Sunday. Will Silver Linings overcome Argo and Lincoln?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Homosexuality in the M&Ms Commercials

I just realized the M&M commercials are pretty kinky. There was always the one about the pretzel inside the Yellow M&M and the M&M being nervous that people would think there was something weird about the pretzel guy being inside of him. So much so that they both wear false mustaches and glasses so they won't be recognized. That's definitely about being a closeted gay.

The new commercial is even more edgy. The female chocolate M&M, who always seems to be naked because she has no shell, is at a party. We can tell it's a female because she's in high heels and has long lashes. Anyway a human woman says to her, "I want you to meet my friend Shelly, but stay away from Chrissie. She loves chocolate....She'll devour you." The sexual implication is clear. We see Chrissie across the room and she gives the female M&M--Let's call her Miss M for short--the eye. There's more than a hint of lesbianism in that look. So Miss M pawns off her male counterpart on Chrissie who takes him to her car, supposedly for a date. (The male M&M has the voice of Fry from Futurama--his name is Billy West) The male M&M says "Where do you want to go for a bite?" The ravenous Chrissie says "Right here" and locks the doors. There is a wide shot of the exterior of the car as Chrissie eats the poor guy and we hear his screams. So we've got cannibalism as well as lesbianism. I'm shocked the Million Moms aren't calling for a boycott of M&Ms.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Broadway 2012-13: Busiest but Dullest Season Ever?

Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox
in Jekyll and Hyde
With the definite announcement of the Broadway opening of Jekyll and Hyde, we almost have a complete list of the 2012-13 season. If everything comes off as planned there will be a total of 47 new productions, one of the largest in recent memory. There are only two productions which have announced intentions of opening before the Tony deadline without having secured a theater or dates (The Miss Firecracker Contest, The Velocity of Autumn). However, it seems there's a dearth of worthy new plays, with no strong candidate emerging as a contender for the Tony. Many have already shut down including The Anarchist, The Performers, Grace, and Dead Accounts. Lucky Guy is the most anticipated non-tuner, mainly because double-Oscar winner Tom Hanks is headlining.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Catching Up with Oscar Best Pic Nominees

Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry in Beasts of the Southern Wild
For the first time in years I have a noble goal in sight: catching all of the nominees for Best Picture before the Oscar telecast. When there were only five candidates, it wasn't much of a problem. But then they went and stretched it to ten and I fell hopelessly behind--Did I really need to see The Blind Side? This year, there are nine--they changed the rules again last year so that the number can vary from five to ten for some weird statistical reason--and I have caught eight of them. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Victor Garber Joins the Parade

After yesterday's post on Jodie Foster obliquely coming out at the Golden Globes, I saw a story on Towelroad about Victor Garber who also at the GGs for Argo, also being open about his sexuality in a much less ballyhooed manner. A reporter just casually asked him to go on the record about his partner. The actor responded that he ususally doesn't talk about it, but yes, his partner would be with him for the SAG Awards. I remember when Garber was on Alias and there was an interview with him in Entertainment Weekly. Not a single mention of his personal life or who he was dating. Now if it had been a straight actor they would have at least said if he had a girlfriend. It should have been obvious to me. When he was in Damn Yankees on Broadway, I recall hearing he used to crack up his castmates backstage by imitating Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Being Gay at Award Shows: A Contrast

Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes
There were two very different images of being a gay celebrity on recent awards shows, one reflected how things are in 2013, the other was a shadow of a closeted past. On the People's Choice Awards last week, four of the five nominees for Favorite TV Comedy Actor were openly gay: Chris Colfer (Glee), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory). Two play gay characters (Colfer, Ferguson) and two straight (Harris, Parsons). The fifth nominee was Ferguson's straight brother-in-law on his show Ty Burrell. Colfer won, and I didn't even realize the gay slant in this category until I thought about it. Incidentally, the award was presented by Ellen DeGeneris who won her 13th People's Choice Award for Favorite Talk Show Host. The Million Moms must be having conniptions.

The wonderful thing was most of the actors have not made a big deal of coming out, their sexuality is casually mentioned in interviews which is all I've ever wanted. I wanted actors to be be able to mention their same-sex partners or love interests the same as their straight counterparts. I remember Anderson Cooper having to not even hint at his sexuality on CNN. Actors should not have to hide their true selves and it's not an invasion of privacy anymore and it won't damage their careers. It's important that young gay people being bullied in school for being gay have people like the four nominees be seen as popular, funny, and successful and not freaks or objects of derision.

'Lincoln' Oscar Sweep; 'Zero' Sum Game

Lincoln swept the Oscar nomination on Thurs. and I did pretty well on my predictions. Best Picture=8 out of 9 right (I did say there would be ten nominees, so I had an edge); Actor=4 out of 5 (Hugh Jackman took John Hawkes place, paralyzed usually beats musical); Actress=3 out 5; Supporting Actor=5 out of 5; Supporting Actress=4 out of 5; Director=2 out of 5. 

The biggest surprises were the snubs of Ben Affleck (who won big for Argo at the Golden Globes last night) and Katheryn Bigelow in the Best Director category. I think guarantees a win for Steven Spielberg for Lincoln. It may be that the Oscar directing voters wanted to shy away from politics, rejecting both directors who helmed CIA-themed pictures.

I was also surprised that Beasts of the Southern Wild did so well picking up nominations for Best Picture, Actress (nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis) and director. I thought if they were going to reward a little indie film, they'd go with Moonrise Kingdom which got a screenplay nod. Executives must be pulling their hair out saying "We go them to go to ten nominees for Best Pictures so blockbusters like Dark Knight Rising and Skyfall get included. Instead they give it to a French downer about old people and a weird jagged thing about a little girl in a swamp?" Sat. I saw both Les Miz and Beasts and will do a separate blog on that.

Here is where we stand 

PictureAmour (LAFCA, NSFC, oscar)
 Argo (AFI, bafta; cc, gg, OFCS, oscar, pga, SD)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (AFI, cc, is, oscar, pga)
Bernie (is)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (gg)
The Dark Knight Rises (AFI)
Django Unchained (AFI, cc, gg, oscar, pga)
Keep the Lights On (is)
Les Miserables (AFI, bafta, cc, gg, oscar, pga)
Life of Pi (AFI, bafta, cc, gg, LV, oscar, pga)
Lincoln (AFI, bafta, cc, DFW, gg, oscar, pga)
The Master (cc, SF)
Moonrise Kingdom (AFI, cc, gg, is, pga)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (gg)
Silver Linings Playbook (AFI, cc, DET, gg, is, oscar, pga)
Skyfall (pga)
Zero Dark Thirty (AFI, bafta, Bos, CHI, cc, DC, gg, NBR, NYFCC, NYO, oscar, pga) 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

BAFTA Noms Honor Affleck, Snub Spielberg

John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Ben Affleck in Argo
It's the day before the Oscar nominations and we have the final major nominations before the big announcement: the BAFTAs which are the British equivalent of the Oscars, and the Directors Guild nominations. The major surprises were the BAFTAs including Ben Affleck as both best actor and director for Argo and snubbing Spielberg, though Lincoln got the most nominations from the Brits. Affleck's best actor nod is his only one for performing while he's received directing nominations from the Globes, Critics Choice and DGA.

The BAFTA also include a separate category for Best British Film but since I'm not including foreign films in the other tallying, I won't tally that here. It sounds sort of like a consolation prize, like the Critics Choice Awards including Best Comedy Film and Best Action Film. Les Miz is nominated for both Best FIlm and Best British Film. The other nominees are Anna Karenina (the only major award recognition for the Tom Stoppard adaptation of Tolstoy), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Seven Psychopaths, and Skyfall. In addition to BAFTAs and DGAs, we've added the Online FIlm Critics Society winners.

PictureArgo (AFI, bafta; cc, gg, OFCS, pga, SD)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (AFI, cc, is, pga)
Bernie (is)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (gg)
The Dark Knight Rises (AFI)
Django Unchained (AFI, cc, gg, pga)
Keep the Lights On (is)
Les Miserables (AFI, bafta, cc, gg, pga)
Life of Pi (AFI, bafta, cc, gg, LV, pga)
Lincoln (AFI, bafta, cc, DFW, gg, pga)
The Master (cc, SF)
Moonrise Kingdom (AFI, cc, gg, is, pga)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (gg)
Silver Linings Playbook (AFI, cc, DET, gg, is, pga)
Skyfall (pga)
Zero Dark Thirty (AFI, bafta, Bos, CHI, cc, DC, gg, NBR, NYFCC, NYO, pga) 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Oscar Nominee Predictions

I decided not to wait until the BAFTA nominations come up to make my Oscar predictions. That would only leave me one day. We did get the DGA nominations and they were pretty much as expected--Affleck, Bigelow, Lee, Spielberg, the only surprise was the inclusion of Tom Hooper for Les Miz instead of David Russell for SIlver Linings Playbook. I think the Oscar nominators will give him a Screenplay nod. We'll include the DGA in tomorrow's awards wrap up with the BAFTAs.

So here are my predix

Django Unchained 
Les Miserables 
Life of Pi 
The Master 
Moonrise Kingdom 
Silver Linings Playbook 
Zero Dark Thirty 
I think there will be the maximum of ten nominees this year since there are so many pictures with strong support. Argo, Les Miz, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings and Zero are definites. There might be a nod to megabox office pix like The Dark Knight or Skyfall or maybe even The Hobbit. I hope they'll include indie fave Moonrise Kingdom and foreign weepie Amour. The final race is between Zero and Lincoln, both political pix. Critics darling Zero may be a problem for Hollywood since it seems to endorse torture and is under investigation. So Lincoln could sneak in as Best Pic and they'd give Bigelow best director as a consolation prize. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

National Society of Film Critics Falls in 'Amour'

Emmanuelle Riva in Amour
Just call me the Nate Silver of the movie awards season. By compiling a list of all the film awards, I believe we can get a good indication of how the Oscar nominations will go on Jan. 10. Today we add the National Society of Film Critics which had their voting at Sardi's in NYC. The NSFC always goes last of all the film critics' groups because they don't care about appearing in ads or Oscar campaigns. They almost never go along with the eventual Oscar Best Picture. This year they agreed with the Los Angeles critics and picked Amour as best picture with Emmanuelle Riva as Best Actress.

We've also adding film critics' groups based in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, San Diego, and San Francisco as well as the Producers Guild Award nominees.(Do the winners go to all those cities to pick up their awards?)

The only major nominations left are the BAFTA Awards and the Directors Guild. The Baftas lean towards British product (it being a British Award and all) so expect The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to represented. Once we have those, I will put out my predictions.

The only surprise for the Best Picture nominees would be if mass-market megapix franchise like James Bond and Batman are represented.

Here are the latest compilation lists. Newcomers include Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz and Emma Watson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower who were named as Best Actress and Supporting Actress respectively by the San Diego critics.

PictureArgo (AFI, cc, gg, pga, SD)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (AFI, cc, is, pga)
Bernie (is)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (gg)
The Dark Knight Rises (AFI)
Django Unchained (AFI, cc, gg, pga)
Keep the Lights On (is)
Les Miserables (AFI, cc, gg, pga)
Life of Pi (AFI, cc, gg, LV, pga)
Lincoln (AFI, cc, DFW, gg, pga)
The Master (cc, SF)
Moonrise Kingdom (AFI, cc, gg, is, pga)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (gg)
Silver Linings Playbook (AFI, cc, DET, gg, is, pga)
Skyfall (pga)
Zero Dark Thirty (AFI, Bos, CHI, cc, DC, gg, NBR, NYFCC, NYO, pga) 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Tribute to William Windom and Others of the TV Past

William Windom in The Doomsday Machine on Star Trek
In my wrap-up of Notable Passings for the past year, it was inevitable I'd miss one or two. But I shouldn't have missed William Windom, who left us in the middle of 2012. Windom is probably best remembered as the cranky doctor for Cabot Cove on Angela Lansbury's long-running 1980s series Murder She Wrote. But during the 1960s and 70s, he was on practically every TV show from The Lucy Show to Star Trek to The Twilight Zone to Night Gallery to All in the Family. He was the star of two series, the TV version of the movie The Farmer's Daughter and My World and Welcome to It, based on the humorous writings and cartoons of James Thurber. The gently funny series about a cartoonist ran for only one season, but it won an Emmy for Best Comedy Series and Windom was named Best Comedy Actor.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year: Of Cliffs and Kardashians

Is this the only blog to feature pictures of John Boehner and
Kim Kardashian in the same post?
Probably not, but it might get me more hits.
We are now officially falling off the fiscal cliff, but Orange Man John Boehner can stop the fall. The Senate passed a compromise bill late last night (sometime after Kathy Griffin pretended to give Anderson Cooper oral on CNN), now it's in the House and Boehner is desperately attempting to wrangle enough non-Tea Party votes to get it to pass. After the Plan B debacle, his skin tone will change from orange to green if he can't cut the mustard.

As far as the bill goes, I am not one of these purist Democrats who demand the $250K threshold on higher taxes. The new bill goes higher ($400K for individuals and $450K for couples) and I can live with that. You have to give the Republicans something, that's called negotiating, as we learned in the current Lincoln movie, there are all kinds of tricky deals that go on behind the scenes. If you don't horse trade, nothing gets done. You have your principles and idealism in tact, but no legislation gets passed. That's what these Tea Party true believers haven't learned. What will probably happen is the Tea Baggers will vote no and have protection from primary challenges and Boehner will allow the more moderate members of his party to vote yes. Pelosi, who has better control of her people than Boehner, will let one or two extreme liberals to vote no because they're unhappy with the $450K threshold, but the Dems will go for it. Now the real fight over spending cuts is kicked down the road to March.

The really big New Year's news is that skank Kim Kardashian is preggers with Kayne West's baby. Is she the one who married the basketball player for like ten minutes after their multi-million dollar wedding? How long have they been dating? How long do you think they'll stay married after E! gives the Kardashian family another couple of million dollars to cover the nuptials? Ah, the sanctity of heterosexual unions.