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Back Into the Fray…

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Alright, it’s certainly no secret that I’ve been on quite a hiatus from The Edge of the Frame over the last two weeks. I’m sorry to say that I don’t even have a good excuse, aside from just having a lot going on. Obviously Christmas, New Year’s Eve and both of their aftermaths have taken their toll on my schedule. As some of you know, my birthday also happened to fall in the last few weeks (congratulations to me for making it to a quarter of a century) which also brought about it’s own string of festivities. Perhaps the most time-consuming and unfortunately debilitating event of recent times was my grueling bout with food poisoning, that kept me all but bed-ridden for nearly a week. Allow me to thank Peking Chinese Kitchen on Belmont for that. You definitely lost a return customer with that one.

Anyway, now that my schedule is relatively clear and my digestive system is back to normal, I think it’s about time to get back down to business. The last post I made was to close out the biggest week in the awards season with the Golden Globe nominations. And while not many more hugely substantial announcements have occurred since, the shape of this year’s race has shifted a little bit. Let’s dive in.

Well, while other things have changed here and there, the overall frontrunner has not moved much. “The Artist” positioned itself in the lead about a month ago and it really hasn’t lost any ground. “The Tree of Life” has certainly picked up a lot of steam on the critics circuit, but no film has come close to matching the strong silent type in terms of genuine devotion, from critics and audiences alike. It also has a fresh taste spinning for it that virtually no other film made this year can lay claim to.

So what film this year still has the potential to upset the current trajectory? The answer, unfortunately is nothing. Several films have earned themselves a late surge with some unexpected critical love, such as the above-mentioned “The Tree of Life,” as well as “Drive,” yet both films are still just fighting for nominations. As far as the other juggernauts go, “War Horse” just hasn’t been able to break past its own sappiness to overcome it’s largely mediocre status. “The Descendants,” meanwhile, seemingly peaked too early and lost a lot of its buzz by the time awards started rolling in. It will still likely pick up an Oscar or two, but its original status as a Best Picture hopeful is fading.

Perhaps the only two films that stand anywhere near a fighting chance are “Hugo” and “The Help.” While just about no one (aside from myself) can stop drooling their praise all over Martin Scorsese and what he has done with this 3D endeavor, the film does suffer greatly from completely missing out in the SAG nominations. Say what you want, but the performers contingent of the Academy nearly doubles any other and their opinion weighs in greatly, here. And one film’s bane is another’s best friend, for “The Help” has the SAG deep in it’s pocket. This unlikely little film-that-could has surprisingly become “The Artist”‘s biggest competition, provided it keeps up a solid guild run (which certainly seems probable with it’s PGA nomination). Perhaps its biggest detractor is the lack of a well-known director. Yet, if Tate Taylor is able to surprise us all with a DGA nomination next week, it’s star will just keep rising.

Obviously, the biggest surprise of the last month has been the emergence of “Bridesmaids” as a contender for a Best Picture nomination. I’d wager any money that, back in May, you could count on both hands how many people thought that this was a plausible scenario for a film that features one woman going number two in a bathroom sink, while another squats in the middle of the street. Albeit, that is arguably the funniest scene of any film this year and I would not be at all disappointed if the film ended up on the shortlist. Yet, it’s bordering on mystifying that the Academy has reached that point. If “Bridesmaids” scores a nomination with the WGA, tomorrow, it will have one from all four guilds, and you can count on only one hand the amount of films that have done that this year.

I won’t go into the acting categories just yet, but will hopefully address those individually at a later date. However, I will be following this up with a new complete set of predictions by tomorrow. Stay tuned.

My Golden Globe Predictions

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m not going to spend a lot of time justifying these. With the Golden Globes, you just never know what is going to happen, to be quite honest. One easy way to make predictions would be to track which studios sent the HFPA members the most gift baskets and free trips to Vegas, but I guess that’s out of the question.

For the record, I am going against my hopes and dreams by betting against “Moneyball” in most categories. I may regret it, but I just don’t see the Globes going hardcore for a baseball movie, no matter how incredible it is. I can only hope that I’ll be proven wrong.

Here’s my predictions:

BEST PICTURE: DRAMA

1. “The Descendants”
2. “Hugo”
3. “War Horse”
4. “The Help”
5. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

Alt 1: “Moneyball”
Alt 2: “Drive”

BEST PICTURE: MUSICAL/COMEDY
1. “The Artist”
2. “Midnight in Paris”
3. “Bridesmaids”
4. “50/50”
5. “My Week with Marilyn”

Alt 1: “Crazy Stupid Love”
Alt 2: “Carnage”

BEST ACTOR: DRAMA
1. George Clooney – “The Descendants”
2. Brad Pitt – “Moneyball”
3. Leonardo DiCaprio – “J. Edgar”
4. Michael Fassbender – “Shame”
5. Gary Oldman – “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Alt 1: Ryan Gosling – “Drive”
Alt 2: Woody Harrelson – “Rampart”

BEST ACTOR: MUSICAL/COMEDY
1. Jean Dujardin – “The Artist”
2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt – “50/50”
3. Paul Giamatti – “Win Win”
4. Johnny Depp – “The Rum Diary”
5. Owen Wilson – “Midnight in Paris”

Alt 1: Steve Carell – “Crazy Stupid Love”
Alt 2: Matt Damon – “We Bought a Zoo”

BEST ACTRESS: DRAMA
1. Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady”
2. Viola Davis – “The Help”
3. Glenn Close – “Albert Nobbs”
4. Tilda Swinton – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
5. Kirsten Dunst – “Melancholia”

Alt 1: Olivia Colman – “Tyrannosaur”
Alt 2: Elizabeth Olsen – “Martha Marcy May Marlene”

BEST ACTRESS: MUSICAL/COMEDY
1. Michelle Williams – “My Week with Marilyn”
2. Charlize Theron – “Young Adult”
3. Kristen Wiig – “Bridesmaids”
4. Emma Stone – “Crazy Stupid Love”
5. Jodie Foster – “Carnage”

Alt 1: Kate Winslet – “Carnage”
Alt 2: Cameron Diaz – “Bad Teacher”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Christopher Plummer – “Beginners”
2. Kenneth Branagh – “My Week with Marilyn”
3. Albert Brooks – “Drive”
4. Nick Nolte – “Warrior”
5. Armie Hammer – “J. Edgar”

Alt 1: Max von Sydow – “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
Alt 2: Viggo Mortensen – “A Dangerous Method”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Octavia Spencer – “The Help”
2. Melissa McCarthy – “Bridesmaids”
3. Berenice Bejo – “The Artist”
4. Shailene Woodley – “The Descendants”
5. Vanessa Redgrave – “Coriolanus”

Alt 1: Jessica Chastain – “The Help”
Alt 2: Carey Mulligan – “Shame”

BEST DIRECTOR
1. Michael Hazavanicius – “The Artist”
2. Steven Spielberg – “War Horse”
3. Martin Scorsese – “Hugo”
4. Woody Allen – “Midnight in Paris”
5. Stephen Daldry – “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

Alt 1: Alexander Payne – “The Descendants”
Alt 2: Nicholas Wending Refn – “Drive”

BEST SCREENPLAY
1. “Midnight in Paris”
2. “The Descendants”
3. “The Artist”
4. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
5. “Moneyball”

Alt 1: “War Horse”
Alt 2: “The Help”

BEST ANIMATED FILM
1. “Rango”
2. “The Adventures of Tintin”
3. “Puss in Boots”
4. “Arthur Christmas”
5. “Cars 2”

Alt 1: “Kung Fu Panda”
Alt 2: “Rio”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
1. “The Artist”
2. “War Horse”
3. “Hugo”
4. “The Adventures of Tintin”
5. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

Alt 1: “Drive”
Alt 2: “Rango”

I’m not even going to attempt to do Foreign Language Film or Original Song since its late and I will most certainly do pretty poorly on them. We’ll see what happens in a few hours and I’ll be sure to report whatever turns up.

The SAG Nominations: My Thoughts

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m not going to lie. While occasionally the Screen Actors Guild throws a curveball or two in the mix when it comes to their nomination day, I have never seen anything like this, before. In every single category (aside from Best Actress, which I managed to score five for five in my predictions), there was at least one major shocker. Not to mention that several films that seemed to be on an absolute roll were left out in the cold.

Let’s start with Best Ensemble Cast. Things here went pretty much as expected. I got four out of five, with my first alternate taking that final spot. Without a doubt this definitely does put the final nail in “The Ides of March'”s coffin. I suppose it might still have a chance with the WGA, especially with the long list of ineligible films, but Best Picture is completely out of its grasp. What these nominees have proven is that “The Help” is going to be a force to be reckoned with. We can now all but stencil it in on Oscar nomination morning, along with “The Descendants” and “The Artist,” but we already knew that. “Midnight in Paris” scored a nice mention, but I’m still not thoroughly convinced it has what it takes to make it all the way to Best Picture. And while “Bridesmaids” certainly had a good morning, after the Globes, it can probably call its awards contention about done. Melissa McCarthy will surely continue her ride to the Kodak, but the rest of the cast and crew will have to sit on the sidelines.

While discussing ensemble, its worth pointing out that it’s exclusion of certain performers in the “Midnight in Paris” cast is really quite appalling. This usually happens every year. When “The Social Network” was nominated in this category, Rooney Mara was disturbingly left out of the finalists, despite being an absolute standout in a small role. This year, some of the most memorable roles from Woody Allen’s film did not make the final cut. Allison Pill and Tom Hiddleston, who played Ella and F. Scott Fitzgerald were left off the list. Perhaps the most disturbing omission of, however, was the lack of Corey Stoll who’s breakout portrayal of Ernest Hemingway was probably the film’s best feature. One has to wonder how the SAG even goes about picking these names and how they could slip up so bad as to miss such brilliant talent.

On to Best Actor, which went pretty much according to plan…aside from one glaringly obvious surprise that was Demien Bechir. Wow. Talk about a wrench thrown into the works. Though, there’s a difference between being flabbergasted and being upset, and its hard to get mad about such an underdog breaking onto the scene in such an enormous fashion. Personally I had no interest in seeing the film, but good for him, nonetheless. Clooney, Dujardin and Pitt earn their expected nods while DiCaprio still holds onto a slim chance for his long overdue gold. At least his chances for a nomination have drastically increased.

I am also not shy at all about predicting the lack of love for “Shame” while nearly everyone else on the web thought Fassbender was a shoo-in at this point. I’m not proud of them for snubbing him, just proud of myself for calling it. He should have a bit heavier chances with the Academy itself, however, who’s selection of voters isn’t at all as random or spontaneous as the Actors Guild is. It really is too bad for Oldman, though. His last hope of resurrecting his chances will be an assured nomination and hopefully a win from the British Academy. It’s certainly helped others in the past.

I don’t have a lot of words to describe the Best Actress race, suffice to say that this could very well be the same lineup we see announced next month. Each of these actresses has overcome what barriers they need and while Close and Swinton are not exactly locks yet, it will still be difficult for them to miss at this point.

On the supporting side of actresses, the biggest shocker was the absence of Shailene Woodley, who, after conquering the National Board of Review was thought to be serious contender for all awards to follow. I feel like a lack of name recognition might have attributed to this miss. It might also just be the overwhelming love for “The Help,” which managed to score two nods in this category. Berenice Bejo proved that “The Artist” is not a one man show and Janet McTeer managed to make it in on Glenn Close’s coattails (actually I have no right to say that without seeing the performance which apparently stands out just as much the lead does). Finally, Melissa McCarthy grabbed the last slot. She is fast becoming my favorite acting contender this year. Probably the funniest performance I’ve seen all year.

Finally, we get to the category that pretty much just threw the entire contest for a loop. First off, the would-be frontrunner and winner of the most awards for any supporting role this year by about two times over, Albert Brooks, failed to even achieve a nomination. Even if he still manages an eventual Oscar nomination, this move has all but ensured Christopher Plummer as the de facto frontrunner. While two other older actors  (Kenneth Branagh and Nick Nolte) made the cut, other veterans like Max von Sydow and Ben Kingsley were beaten out by two performers that I feel actually quite bad for counting down and out. Jonah Hill gets a huge boost for himself and his film with his nomination for “Moneyball” and Armie Hammer, who I spent the last few months predicting but finally gave up when support for “J. Edgar” all but tanked. Now, I’m more than thrilled to see him back in the running.

Well, I gotta wrap this up real quick so I can move on to my globe predictions, which hopefully I’ll have up while some of you are still awake.

Updated Oscar Predictions – 12/5

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Thought I’d throw these up real quick before anything has the chance to further throw things off track. With so much going on, it’s almost impossible to do this without live prediction updates with every new announcement. Yet, it’s important to remember that many of the announcements, while notable, are not intensively significant in terms of the Oscar season. When predicting at this point, you almost have to just stick your finger up and see where the wind is blowing.

There are two films that have certainly positioned themselves at the head of the field, and it’s not like we weren’t already aware. “The Descendants” and “The Artist” have dominated the majority of awards announcements thus far and are not likely to stop.”Moneyball” and “The Tree of Life” have definitely shown their still in the game, while “Hugo” has emerged as a candidate and potential frontrunner.

While the guilds will largely decide its fate, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” has yet to receive any notice at all. Neither, to some extent, has “War Horse,” yet Mr. Spielberg’s film is far from leaving contention. Meanwhile, “The Girl with Dragon Tattoo” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” remain shrouded in a fair amount of mystery.

Remember, that while I hope that these predictions are a bit more relevant than my last, things are going to get blown wide open in about ten days when we have the results of the BFCA, the SAG and the Golden Globe nominations. Therefore, enjoy these while they last. Things are about to get messy.

Check out my full list of predictions after the cut:

BEST PICTURE

1. “The Artist”
2. “The Descendants”
3. “War Horse”
4. “Hugo”
5. “Moneyball”
6. “The Help”
7. “Midnight in Paris”
8. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
9. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”
10. “The Tree of Life”

Alt 1: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
Alt 2: “Shame”

Read more…

“The Dark Knight Rises” – New Photos and Promos

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Even with the buzz of the Oscar season overwhelming every second of my life and so many promising films hitting theaters left and right, it is difficult to deny that in my mind, and probably everyone else’s, one movie continues to dominate the sense of anticipation. That film is obviously “The Dark Knight Rises.” Even though I’m still a little bent out of shape over the fact that Pittsburgh was chosen to replace Chicago as the Gotham City backdrop (I mean really, who are they kidding?), the excitement towards the closing chapter of one of the most extraordinary and game-changing franchises in movie history is undeniable.

Therefore, I find it necessary to report some of this extraordinarily exciting news reported in the new issue of Empire Magazine. The periodical contains the first actual stills from the film reel itself as well as some revealing interviews with both Christopher Nolan and Tom Hardy. The two of them discuss some interesting facets of the film which could perhaps give an inkling to a few plot details.

Thanks to Hardy, we now have a clearer image of what kind of villain Bane will serve in the film. The answer is a pretty damn harsh one:

“He’s brutal, brutal. He’s expedient delivery of brutality. And you know, he’s a big dude. He’s a big dude who’s incredibly clinical, in the fact that he has a result-based and orientated fighting style…Everything is thought out way before. He’s hit you, he’s already hit somebody else. It’s not about fighting. It’s just about carnage with Bane. He’s a smashing machine. He’s a wrecking ball. The style is heavy-handed, heavy-footed, it’s nasty. Anything from small joint manipulation to crushing skulls, crushing rib cages, stamping on shins and knees and necks and collarbones and snapping heads off and tearing his fists through chests, ripping out spinal columns. It’s anything he can get away with. He is a terrorist in his mentality as well as brutal action. So he’s horrible. A really horrible piece of work.”

Wow. Well it will be interesting if Nolan (or the MPAA) actually allows the removal of spinal columns in the next Batman film or if Hardy was just being sarcastic and caught up in the moment. As far as Christopher Nolan is concerned, he had this to say about Bane and what we can expect Batman to be facing in this new episode:

“With Bane, we are looking to give Batman a physical challenge that he hasn’t had before. With our choice of villain and with our choice of story we’re testing Batman both physically as well as mentally. Also, in terms of finishing our story and increasing its scope, we were trying to craft an epic, so the physicality of the film became very important. Bane’s a very different kind of villain than Batman has faced before in our films. He’s a great sort of movie monster, but with an incredible brain, and that was a side of him that hadn’t been tapped before.”

Along with this, the director also offered an interesting tidbit of information concerning the time of the film. Unlike most sequels, this one will not be picking up exactly from where the previous chapter left off:

“It’s really all about finishing Batman and Bruce Wayne’s story. We left him in a very precarious place. Perhaps surprisingly for some people, our story picks up quite a bit later, eight years after The Dark Knight. So he’s an older Bruce Wayne — he’s not in a great state.”

You put all of this together, and one question bares very strongly in my mind: just how dark is Nolan going to take this film? Everything that we’ve seen and heard points to a possibility that the film’s predecessor, widely acclaimed for its realism and unsentimentality, could seem like a Disney movie compared to this one. There’s one quite cataclysmic event that some journalists and enthusiasts are contemplating. Between Bruce Wayne’s older state, the brutality of Bane and Nolan’s description of Batman being tested both physically and mentally like never before, one has to wonder if Bane will, in fact, break Batman’s back. Those who have read or have a decent knowledge of the comics know that this event does occur in Knightfall. Perhaps this will be Nolan’s way of closing out the Batman series, and to be even more speculative, maybe bringing Catwoman in to take on the mantel. She has already been seen in photos riding the Batpod.

The internet is like a sewing circle of gossip and rumors and all we can do is wait for the next dollop of news. Supposedly, we will not have to wait that long. As Nolan did with “The Dark Knight” a prologue is being planned for theatrical release. The first six minutes of the film are going to be shown as a complete short before IMAX screenings of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” I personally wish they could have attached it to a film that I actually planned on seeing, but I’m sure it will pop up on the internet sooner or later. The prologue featured the Joker’s bank heist. Who knows exactly what this one will feature. Though, it’s been made clear that Bane’s mask and antecedent injury is explained in the early scenes of the film so perhaps we’ll see something along those lines.

Below are the rest of the photos released in Empire, as well as their cover series:

15 Documentaries Make Oscar’s Short List

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Sorry that I’m a bit late on this, but I’ve been a little preoccupied over the last week with my sister’s wedding. The Academy has released its next round of finalists in a branch that I’ve grown to love and hate equally. They always seem to make a few poor selection decisions and omissions and this year is really no different.

The short list is as follows:

“Battle for Brooklyn” (RUMER Inc.)
“Bill Cunningham New York” (First Thought Films)
“Buck” (Cedar Creek Productions)
“Hell and Back Again” (Roast Beef Productions Limited)
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” (Marshall Curry Productions, LLC)
“Jane’s Journey” (NEOS Film GmbH & Co. KG)
“The Loving Story” (Augusta Films)
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” (@radical.media)
“Pina” (Neue Road Movies GmbH)
“Project Nim” (Red Box Films)
“Semper Fi: Always Faithful” (Tied to the Tracks Films, Inc.)
“Sing Your Song” (S2BN Belafonte Productions, LLC)
“Undefeated” (Spitfire Pictures)
“Under Fire: Journalists in Combat” (JUF Pictures, Inc.)
“We Were Here” (Weissman Projects, LLC)

Let’s start with a few things that I am quite happy with. It is nice to see the Academy considering “We Were Here” a little-known documentary about the emergence of the AIDS crisis and the banding together of the gay community that followed. Also, I’m very happy to see “If a Tree Falls” hanging onto contention. In a time of such social unrest and protest, the film is a strong examination of human futility, police brutality and the concept of justifiable crime. It truly brings into light the concept of one man’s terrorist being another man’s freedom fighter and illustrates how that man could very well be your neighbor.

Now, we’ll take a moment to note what was expected. “Project Nim,” the chimpanzee-education film by the makers of “Man on Wire” was bound to find a slot in here. The film does look exceptional, but it wouldn’t really matter considering the list of accolades that the helmers’ last effort brought in. Two other films that are also unsurprisingly here are “Buck,” the true-life horse whisperer that the Robert Redford film was based on, and “Hell and Back Again,” the personal journey of a soldier reflected both in and coming home from Afghanistan. While I’m kind of annoyed that some truly original work has been snubbed by yet ANOTHER war documentary, I still can’t believe the brilliant cinematography on display in the film. Remarkable.

There were some truly shocking omissions in this category, as usual. The most prominent is the absence of “Senna,” the story of Formula 1 racer Aryton Senna who won three championships and was later killed in a fiery crash. I don’t think there was a single pundit who wasn’t considering this a major contender, while the majority already had it pegged to win. Also snubbed were two documentaries about journalism, itself. “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” a story detailing the fight between old school reporting and social media, and “Tabloid,” the latest film by the man who changed the way documentaries were made, Errol Morris. “Tabloid,” however, is in the midst of a lawsuit with its subject, Joyce McKinney, which might account for its absence.

Finally, there’s the category of straight-up disappointments. The first, though not wholly unexpected, was the snub of Werner Herzog’s powerful new discussion of the death penalty, “Into the Abyss.” The film is extraordinary and one would think that the Academy might try to lift the shame it brought on itself after penalizing and snubbing perhaps one of the greatest documentaries ever made, “Grizzly Man.” But, alas, it appears they still have it out for Herzog and his quest for cinematic truth.

Yet, without a doubt, the most painful snub of the list was of Steve James’ unrelentingly emotional film “The Interrupters.” James made a huge splash in the documentary world with his epic story of a high school basketball team, “Hoop Dreams” (which Roger Ebert still calls one of the 100 greatest films of all time). Here, he examines a group of unlikely heroes: a crime prevention group in Chicago that pulls out all the stops in their attempt to end gang violence. The group goes door to door and sometimes throws itself into the fray for the sole purpose of saving lives. In a time that is overrun with films about big issues such as the economy and the war, it was refreshing to see a film about an problem just as dire, that exists in our own backyard and is completely solvable when some would choose to simply turn their backs on it. Shame on the Academy for overlooking such a powerful and cathartic film that really inspires people to make a difference.

The way things stand now, I would put the documentary category looking something like this:

1. “Project Nim”
2. “Hell and Back Again”
3. “We Were Here”
4. “Pina”
5. “Buck”

Alt 1: “If a Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front”
Alt 2: “Bill Cunningham: New York”

We shall see. Stay tuned to The Edge of the Frame when I add this to my next list of updated predictions, hopefully some time in the next week.

Billy Crystal Takes the Reins…Again

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, I have just got to stop inflicting these terrible omens on myself and the rest of the world with these posts. In my most recent article, I had remarked that I hope Don Mischer does not simply “regurgitate Billy Crystal for the umpteenth time.” Well, perhaps this is not the worst way to resurrect this year’s Oscars from the Ratner debacle, but it is certainly not the best.

I should start off by stating what has already been widely reported: Brian Grazer has stepped up to fill Brett Ratner’s shoes. This is not at all a bad choice. It’s hard not to like, if not at least respect, Grazer as a class-act producer. An Academy Award winner, himself, Grazer has been a major part of such Hollywood films as “A Beautiful Mind,” “American Gangster,” “The Nutty Professor” and “Apollo 13.” To add on to his film career, and beef up his resume as a television producer, he was also behind the helm of such popular hits as “Friday Night Lights” and “Arrested Development.” The decision to hire the man was a great step forward in terms of damage control for this year’s telecast.

So, there’s the good. Let’s move on to the Academy’s less inspired decisions. Billy Crystal is taking Eddie Murphy’s place and making his ninth appearance hosting the Oscars. NINTH. The only person to perform that gig more times was Bob Hope, and many of his turns were as a co-host. The fact that Crystal has been here nine times automatically speaks to the notion that the Academy didn’t care to put any genuine creativity into their decision, but instead have simply gone back to their comfort zone of what worked for them back in a time when the Oscars were still popular with the general public.

One important thing to get across here is that I really don’t have that much against Crystal as a host. In fact, I think he’s done a great job with the show in the past. I recall that the 1997 season, in which “Titanic” took home virtually everything, was maybe the first full telecast I ever watched (I was eleven, so give me a break) and it was his hosting, if nothing else, that really got me hooked.

What I am pissed about, and may never be able to fully forgive Crystal for, are his remarks made to the Associated Press in March of this year when Crystal entertained the notion of hosting again, upon compliance with a personal condition:

“I think the show needs to change. There’s too many awards and it has to sort of freshen itself up, and if I can be a part of that, that would be great.”

Let’s put aside for a moment that the Academy Awards and its selection of those awards are a long-standing and important tradition that has been a staple practically since Hollywood came into being. I’m sorry if Mr. Crystal thinks that it gets a little boring for primetime television. Let’s instead focus on the fact that the Oscars are the only time and place left in America in which all the elements that go into a film are brought together and honored. It’s the only opportunity for a cinematographer or an editor or a sound designer or a makeup artist to stand in front of a worldwide audience and be given the respect of being the best at their craft. You take that away, and the show becomes a second-rate Golden Globes: a star-fucking extravaganza that reassures that audience that all you really need to make a movie is Johnny Depp.

If any of Crystal’s notions were actually taken into effect, it might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and induces me to finally change the channel. I’ve endured a lot as an Oscar prognosticator. I can deal with the campaigning, the politics, the poor-taste decisions, and even Harvey Weinstein bribing and felating voters under the table. But when you take the backbone of the film industry and shut them out in the cold because you think it will improve your ratings, you have crossed a line. For that, I say shame on you, Mr. Crystal. At long last, have you no decency?

One can only hope that our host does not get his way, and the Academy’s tradition of honoring all aspects of filmmaking remains intact. We shall find out in three months’ time.

First Ratner, Now Murphy…

November 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, as I predicted in the update to my last post, Eddie Murphy has left his position as this year’s Oscar host, following the resignation of producer Brett Ratner. Ratner chose (or was forced, more likely) to leave the job after his insensitive and uninspired comment about rehearsing in film production being for “fags.” After twenty-four hours of apologies, bad press and journalistic backlash, Ratner and the Academy found that stepping down was the only viable option.

As far as Murphy’s exit is concerned, he had the following comments, as reported by Nikki Finke’s Deadline:

“First and foremost I want to say that I completely understand and support each party’s decision with regard to a change of producers for this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I’m sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job.”

While Murphy’s quittage is disappointing, I can’t say that it comes as a surprise. The comedian was hand-picked by Ratner after the two shared a close relationship which was both business and personal. Murphy staying would be like remaining at a house party even after the only friend you have there checks out early. It just wouldn’t have been the same experience for him as a host. It’s really too bad for both him and the viewer, because I strongly believe that he was a fantastic choice for the night’s emcee. Now, we’ll never know.

On the other hand, after a good forty-eight hours of thought since the original incident, I believe that Ratner’s exit, be it by choice or otherwise, was the right course of action. While I still do not think like so many others that the producer’s remarks were in any way meant to be hateful or discriminating. The truth is, ignorance of that kind cannot be tolerated. In a civilization that by all rights should be miles beyond the levels of bigotry that we find ourselves still bogged down in, the use of the term “fag” or anything like it must be reprimanded. It’s the same term used by murderers who torture people for being gay and high schoolers who drive their fellow students to suicide with ridicule. For anyone to use that kind of remark, let alone the frontman for Hollywood’s most biggest and most prestigious night, it’s unacceptable, and Ratner simply should not have been that stupid.

As far as the Oscars go, who knows what’s in store? Quite frankly, it’s a mess. Hopefully, veteran co-producer Don Mischer can find the right people to fill all the vacant shoes and pull this telecast back up by its bootstraps. I can only pray that they don’t decide to just regurgitate Billy Crystal for the umpteenth time and instead actually use some inspiration in their decision-making process.

We shall see. Stay tuned to The Edge of the Frame to find out.

Brett Ratner, the Gaffe and the Academy…What a Mess

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I was originally going to let this story slide, but since the rest of the Oscar community is staring down this incident with mouths agape, I suppose I’ll throw my two cents in.

For those of you who are not aware of said spiel, it took place at a forum for the director’s new film, “Tower Heist.” When asked by a reporter if Ratner likes to run though a scene and rehearse with his actors, Ratner nonchalantly replied that “rehearsing is for fags.” The slur immediately reverberated a vicious outcry across both news outlets and the blogosphere. Certain journalists including Mark Harris from Grantland and Sasha Stone of Awardsdaily immediately called for Ratner’s head served up on a platter. It is the opinion of many that Academy should be firing the director without a second’s notice, or at least push a forced resignation.

Ratner immediately followed up his remarks with a hastily worded apology:

 “I apologize for any offense my remarks caused. It was a dumb way of expressing myself. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body. But as a storyteller I should have been much more thoughtful about the power of language and my choice of words.”

Now, from my posts in the past, I shouldn’t have to clarify myself as a fervently liberal individual, and not many issues are more important or close to me than gay rights. In this day and age of intelligence and enlightenment, prejudice in any form is completely intolerable. This goes double for an industry where art is the primary focus and freedom of expression is everything.

However, when it comes to calling for Ratner’s instant firing over this incident, I cannot jump on the bandwagon. The man’s remarks were stupid, ignorant and of poor judgment. Yet, society has created a weird and idiotic lexical pairing of the term “fag” to “loser” or “dork.” Ratner seems to have fallen victim to this failure of language and is in need of a severe crash course in proper english rhetoric. However, I have to concur that the man’s remark did not seem inherently prejudicial or hateful. Ratner is guilty of being a moron, not a bigot. This does not mean that I believe his apology, wholeheartedly. Maybe the man is a homophobe and another huge slip-up is on the horizon. However, I don’t think with this gaffe he has yet to the entire foot into his mouth and he cannot YET be burned at the stake.

Should he be reprimanded? Yes. Should his work and life be brought under strict observation and scrutiny. Absolutely. However, I cannot agree with the notion of his firing. We’ll have to wait and see if anything else comes to light that will fuel the fire. Should any more substantial evidence of hate or bigotry come forward, I’ll be calling for his pink slip as fast as the next self-respecting human being.

UPDATE: Well it looks like Brett Ratner faced the music and quit his post as Oscar producer. In all likelihood, this was an influenced, if not forced, resignation under the guidance of the Board of Governors. Personally, I think this is a shame. Not because he didn’t act like a complete idiot or because the Academy couldn’t do better, because he did and they can. It’s a shame because he probably was planning a killer show. One can only hope that Eddie Murphy will stay on as host. However, I can’t say I expect it since he was hand-picked by Ratner. If anything, the two were practically a partnership on the deal. A real shame.

18 Official Contenders in Best Animated Film

November 7, 2011 2 comments

According to the Academy’s press release, there are 18 full length films that have been submitted in the category of Best Animated Feature, this year. As some of you know, there are certain Oscars (including Visual Effects and Documentary Feature) which actually get narrowed down to a series of finalists before the big event. Here is the list of films that have a shot of being nominated in this column:

“The Adventures of Tintin”
“Alois Nebel”
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked”
“Arthur Christmas”
“Cars 2″
“A Cat in Paris”
“Chico & Rita”
“Gnomeo & Juliet”
“Happy Feet Two”
“Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil”
“Kung Fu Panda 2″
“Mars Needs Moms”
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”
“Rio”
“The Smurfs”
“Winnie the Pooh”
“Wrinkles”

This list is pretty significant for two reasons. For one, the number of eligible films will dictate that there will be five nominees instead of just three. In order for that number to be assured, the Academy dictates that there must be at least fifteen qualifiers. Therefore, as long as all of these films meet their 2011 release dates, five of these films will be going to the Oscars. Since the award’s inception in 2001, we’ve only seen five nominees once in 2009 when “Up” took home the gold (wrongfully, in my opinion, over “Fantastic Mr. Fox”).

Another significant update this news seems to unveil is that “The Adventures of Tintin” will apparently compete as an animated film. Steven Spielberg and Paramount originally put up a fuss that the film should have it’s own category of motion capture media. In response, I like to quote Morgan Freeman from an Oscar round table in 2009 when he qualified “Avatar” and all motion capture projects as “basically cartoons.” Way to be a boss, Red. In the end, I suppose the film’s director conceded, perhaps realizing the film’s real potential at winning the Animated Feature award. It will likely be in a showdown with the year’s other major contender, the gorgeous yet creatively flawed “Rango,” if only since that seems to be the only other likely challenger that isn’t a hodgepodge sequel to a former winner or nominee.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this year’s race is that, for the first time in five years, it appears that Pixar will not be taking home the gold. To find the last time that another studio was able to take down that juggernaut, one must go all the way back to 2006 (the year “The Departed” won Best Picture, to put things in perspective) when “Happy Feet” narrowly beat out “Cars” for the Oscar. Ironically, both films have sequels competing against each other again this season. Since then, Pixar has kept knocking down the competition like bottles in a shooting gallery with films like “Ratatouille,” “WALL-E,” “Up” and “Toy Story 3.” I guess they will have to keep their seats this year and let the mantel pass to someone else.

The way this is shaping up now, I’d say our field will look like:

1. “The Adventures of Tintin”
2. “Rango”
3. “Cars 2”
4. “Puss in Boots”
5. “Happy Feet 2”

Alt 1: “Arthur Christmas”
Alt 2: “Winnie the Pooh”

In reality, the race really is down to those top two. “Cars 2” will make it in just based on the clout of it’s studio. Six months ago, “Puss in Boots” seemed like an odd choice for a contender. Yet the film is performing extremely well, barely dropping a dime in its second weekend from its opening gross. The “Happy Feet” sequel is very much up in the air right now. It will probably need to break the bank in order to stay ahead of the other dark horses.

Keep reading The Edge of the Frame for more updates to this year’s Oscar race. The finalists for Best Documentary Feature shouldn’t be too far away.