A quick review of last night's "Southland" coming up just as soon as I shoot an old lady with a bean bag...
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I have a dream that someday American filmmakers will finally grow up and stop being so insanely conservative about dealing with all stripes of human sexuality on film.
When we still live in a culture where a movie as ultimately restrained as "Shame" gets slapped with an NC-17, it's obvious that, on an institutional level, we are prudes. It's ridiculous, too. How many films do we see each year about mayhem and murder and violence and war and all manner of human horrors? Those are all considered acceptable, and it almost feels like the more indulgent we are towards brutality, the more afraid we are to deal with sexuality in a mature manner. Yet which subject plays a larger ongoing role in the daily lives of more people?
With "The Surrogate," writer/director Ben Lewin has taken the true story of Mark O'Brien and crafted a smart, heartfelt story about the way a lifelong polio patient, crippled and twisted by the disease, finally begins to explore his own sexuality in his late 30s, with the help of a sexual surrogate. It is a fairly straightforward character drama distinguished by exceptional work from actor John Hawkes and strong supporting turns by William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, and Helen Hunt. It is also worth paying attention to the largely clear-eyed and sophisticated approach it takes to the subject matter, including some fairly frank scenes between Hawkes and Hunt that are impressive and even moving.
I ran an excerpt from my conversation with Sam Worthington not long after I sat down with him to discuss his new film "Man On The Ledge," and we ran that one bit because he was talking specifically about his next film, "Wrath Of The Titans."
We spoke far longer about "Man," though, and I find Worthington's evolution as a leading man very interesting. By the time most audiences saw him for the first time, he'd already been given several huge roles in "Avatar" and "Clash Of The Titans." That seems to be a newer phenomenon, when someone gets anointed a movie star before they've really been seen by audiences, and it doesn't always work.
In Worthington's case, I see exactly why he was cast in those big roles, and I can also see why some audiences just haven't warmed to him. He's not terribly interested in being a giant movie star, and I get the feeling that some of the attention has been difficult for Worthington. In every conversation we've had so far, it strikes me that he really wants to just get better at his craft, pushing himself whenever possible. In "Man On The Ledge," he's playing a normal guy, and he can't really hide behind giant CGI effects or a high concept.
There's going to come a point somewhere down the road, probably sooner than I would like, when my two sons start to ask me questions about drugs, and I'm going to have to make some hard choices about what to share with them about my various chemical indiscretions over the years.
One of the ways I'll make the conversation easier is through the use of specific films as examples of how things feel when you're altered. And now, after tonight's midnight screening at Sundance, I can add "John Dies At The End" to the list of films that I can use to illustrate how it feels when you have intentionally attempted to alter reality through the use of some sort of outside influence. Based on a novel by David Wong, one of the founding voices of Cracked.com, "John Dies At The End" tells the story of what happens when two friends are exposed to a profoundly bizarre drug that is nicknamed "Soy Sauce," which enables them to see an invisible world full of monsters and doorways to other dimensions and things too strange to describe.
Now that the nominations have been announced, it seems like a good time to go ahead and point you to our interviews with various individuals who woke up to good news this morning. This list is on-going as we still have things in the pipeline, so it will inevitably be added to throughout the rest of the month. Check out the list below and we'll update it as we go.
I am no fan, to put it gently, of John Williams's chintzily instructive and inevitably Oscar-nominated score for "War Horse," but I'll admit I've been feeling the need for it all day. Williams is a master in the art of telling you how to feel, and several hours after hearing this years Academy Award nominations, I could really use some plaintive strings or percussive rumbling to tell me what on earth I'm supposed to feel about them.
Am I happy they took a chance on some adventurous arthouse fare like "The Tree of Life" and "A Separation?" Am I dismayed they haven't yet caught wise to Michael Fassbender? Am I perplexed that they seem to be actively sabotaging the admittedly inessential but once-entertaining Best Original Song category? Am I pleased that the animation branch showed some solid brass balls this year, even as I question the wisdom of their choices? Am I concerned that their barometer for the year's best documentaries bears no relation to anyone else's? Am I satisfied I predicted 73 out of 104 nominations, even if I hated myself for making some of those predictions in the first place? I'm certainly annoyed I have to see the wildly unalluring "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" now, after thinking I might just have dodged that bullet.
Why do the Oscar voters hate songs so much? Once again, the music branch has shown utter contempt for contemporary songwriters as they nominated only two tunes in the best original song category out of the 39 deemed eligible. What an insult.
A few years ago the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences changed the way it nominated songs, making it much harder for a tune to qualify. The Academy now holds a session to screen movie clips featuring the eligible songs. The members of the music branch then assign the songs a score. Those scores are then averaged; to be eligible a song must receive an average score of 8.25 or more (if only one song achieves that criteria, the second highest score is also selected). If two or more songs achieve the 8.25 benchmark, they will be the nominees up to a total of five.
Tech Support: 'The Artist,' 'Hugo,' 'Dragon Tattoo' and 'War Horse' feature heavily in Oscar's crafts categories
This morning, many crafts artists in Hollywood (and elsewhere in the world) found out that they are heading to the Kodak Theatre for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. The thrill they are experiencing must be difficult to describe.
The reaction of many to the nominations has simply been “wow.” While I wasn’t as floored as some, I confess to being surprised by many of this morning’s events, and the crafts categories proved no exception.
Before embarking on analysis of the individual categories, two trends should be noted: first, in the vast majority of categories, previously nominated veterans were tapped over up-and-comers. Second, with a few exceptions – notably “The Artist,” “Hugo” and “War Horse” – films either tended to be embraced across the board or confined in their nominations to one or two branches.
So now, on to the individual categories…