Later today, I'll be serving up our Oscar Guide in the Best Actress category -- but if you want an appetizer for that subject, Andrew O'Hehir has written a good piece on the sincere, season-long show of mutual appreciation between the category's frontrunners, Viola Davis and Meryl Streep. ("This is your year," Streep apparently said to Davis at the New York critics' awards.) He gets a few things wrong (like saying that Davis wasn't a surefire nominee last month, when she's plainly been the frontrunner since August), and I'm not sure the title "how Viola Davis took Meryl Streep's Oscar" hits the right note, but O'Hehir's insights into Davis's canny but not cynical self-campaigning, as well as the value of her relationship with Streep, are pointed and sensible amid a chorus of more hysterical commentary about the race. [Salon]
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Morning round-up time, and we're going to hit ABC's Wednesday comedy line-up in order, with quick reviews of "The Middle," "Suburgatory," "Modern Family" and "Happy Endings" all coming up just as soon as I start an organic lesbian catering venture...
"Act of Valor" is a spectacular action epic that is built around a cast of people who could probably kill me. So… A+. See it twice.
Okay, I hope the real-life Navy SEALs who star in "Act Of Valor" just check that opening paragraph, because truth be told, I think "Act Of Valor" is the action movie equivalent of those Christian-market movies like "Fireproof" that come out, make a "surprising" amount of money, and then vanish again. Insufferably earnest, it is a stunt more than anything, one hell of a high-concept hook but not much of a movie.
We're down to the final three, and at this point I can only root for one chef: Paul. I have my reasons. One, he seems to be a very talented chef (hey, we can't taste the food, but judging by the comments he's gotten and his ingredients, I've been impressed). Two, he's really shown the most creativity in his dishes thus far. While he does use a lot of Asian influences, he seems able to look well beyond them and construct dishes that are truly modern (Sarah, on the other hand, has only recently seemed interested in cooking anything but straight Italian food). And three, he's not a mean girl. So, go Paul!
With four days to go until the Academy Awards, we've reached the point in the season -- indeed, given the season's inordinate length and predictability, we've been there for some time -- where everything that's potentially exciting or commendable about this year's awards can be turned against the institution behind them by sufficiently ill-tempered critics and observers.
Isn't it kind of cool that the Best Picture winner is almost certain to be a silent, black-and-white comedy with no household names involved, and the first Oscar champ in the category from outside the US or UK? Oh, I'm sorry, it isn't: assorted corners of the blogosphere have ruled that "The Artist" is disposable, middlebrow fluff, that the Academy is caving to the cynical philistinism of Harvey Weinstein, that voters are out of touch and un-American to boot. (Oh yeah, and Jean Dujardin is bloody Roberto Benigni all over again -- because all Europeans are the same, right?)
Call John Densmore a skeptic. Newly-minted Grammy winner Skrillex had his work cut out for him when he paired with the Doors, including drummer Densmore, to create a new song based on “Riders on the Storm” in “Re:Generation,” a new documentary that links well-known DJs, such as the Crystal Method, DJ Premier and Mark Ronson, with artists in other genres.
The film, which plays in theaters Feb. 23 before finding a TV and then DVD home, chronicles the musical journey that all the musicians travel when they step out of their comfort zones.
[More after the jump...]
UPDATE [8:43 PM EST]: An Academy spokesperson has told The Hollywood Reporter that Cohen has in fact not been banned from the 2012 Oscar ceremony, but that they also do not welcome a publicity stunt to promote the comedian's upcoming film "The Dictator". "We haven't banned him," the spokesperson told THR after the story first broke on Deadline. "We're just waiting to hear what he's going to do." That said: "We don't think [a publicity stunt is] appropriate...But his tickets haven't been pulled. We're waiting to hear back." Based on that statement, it sounds like the threat of being banned still looms, however.
ORIGINAL STORY: Sacha Baron Cohen has been banned from attending this year's Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, due to the organization's fears that the comedian will cause a scene on the red carpet by showing up as his character from the upcoming comedy "The Dictator".
Is everybody ready for tonight's 12-hour "American Idol"?
Oh, I kid. It's only six hours.
I kid again!
Wednesday's (Feb. 22) "American Idol" is only TWO hours.
See? It doesn't sound so bad anymore, does it?
On to the recap, after the break...
The International Cinephile Society may be the last of innumerable critics' groups to announce their top film achievements of 2011 before the Oscars finally call a moratorium on the practice -- but in a season that has long since fallen prey to fatigue, this fresh, imaginative list of winners couldn't come as a more welcome pick-me-up. As a voting member of the ICS, I'm pleased to say I'm as surprised as anyone by some of the results, which stray far from the Oscar pack and include a handful of unique choices.
I'm pretty sure, for example, that this is the first group to hand their Best Actor prize to British newcomer Tom Cullen for "Weekend" -- my own first choice in the category. And if the London Critics' Circle pre-empted the ICS by choosing Anna Paquin as Best Actress, this is certainly the first mention for Paquin's onscreen mom in "Margaret," J. Smith-Cameron, in the Best Supporting Actress category. Kenneth Lonergan's beleaguered little film just keeps chugging along -- who knows what could have happened had it received more critical and studio support upon its September release?
The combination of Gorillaz, James Murphy and Andre 3000 sounds exactly like what you'd think it'd sound like: boing-boing, beep beep, bounce bounce.
This funky collaboration was created in the name of Converse, for their Three Artists, One Song series. It bowed on BBC radio today and will be available through the company's website tomorrow.
The track is another good origin of the query: Why isn't Andre 3000 rapping on everything ever in the whole world ever? Murphy might as well have been filing his nails or cleaning the bathroom when he wrote the mindless refrain "You want to do it, but you don't know what you're doing, baby," but that doesn't mean I won't remember it.
And Albarn sounds thankfully better here than he did at the Brits last night with Blur. Haters: hating. Keep your eyes peeled for the music video.
Wondering who will replace Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger and Steve Jones on "The X Factor"? Well, despite rumors that Britney Spears, LeAnn Rimes or Janet Jackson might be stepping in, Simon Cowell and fellow judge L.A. Reid are staying mum about the top candidates. "This happened last year," Cowell told reporters in a conference call. "There's loads of speculation, some true, some not true. It's true to say a lot more people are interested. We're waiting to see who contacts us... which is a good place to be in." According to Cowell, possible replacements are still up in the air. "We will be meeting with people over the next few weeks, mainly to explain that this is a big commitment with the mentoring."