Latest Blog Posts

<p>A scene (and gorgeous image) from &quot;A&nbsp;Clockwork Orange&quot;</p>

A scene (and gorgeous image) from "A Clockwork Orange"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Kubrick marketing maven Mike Kaplan on 'A Clockwork Orange' at 40

How the film, recently restored, changed film advertising forever

A well-known filmmaker friend and I were chatting about the dearth of quality films in the annual Oscar race at an awards show recently. He said to me, "When I was young, films like 'Network' and 'All the President's Men' were nominated. I feel sorry for you that nothing nominated touches those films these days."

Well, I'd argue few things MADE these days touch those films, and I almost wanted to say something like, "You're a filmmaker in today's environment. What does that say about you?" But nevertheless, point taken. Even still, I marvel at the fact that a film like, say, "A Clockwork Orange" was nominated in 1971. I couldn't fathom that kind of thing happening today. Of course, few films have the earth-shattering impact that Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece did, and when the earth moves, I guess you kind of have to take note.

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<p>The exclusion of Cristian Mungiu's &quot;4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days&quot;&nbsp;from the 2007 finalists list spurred the creation of an executive committee within the foreign language branch.</p>

The exclusion of Cristian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" from the 2007 finalists list spurred the creation of an executive committee within the foreign language branch.

Credit: IFC Films

The Long Shot: Language barriers

On the incrementally self-medicating foreign language film process

This may come as a shock to readers accustomed to my usual tone of weary despair when it comes to the category, but I’m about to write in defense of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Reluctant defense, mind you – I’m not going to get either impassioned or affectionate for the award that recognized “Departures” over “The Class,” “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” over “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “Woman in the Dunes” and never even shortlisted “Persona,” “The 400 Blows” or anything by Kieslowski. For reasons both within and beyond their control, it’s a troubled category and always has been. But unlike most of the Academy’s many problem areas, it’s a highly self-aware and self-medicating one, forever adjusting its voting process to address blind spots.

The adjustments sometimes cause blind spots of their own, like a game of cinematic and bureaucratic whack-a-mole, but you can hardly accuse them of shrugging their shoulders. When arcane eligibility bylaws about the required language of national submissions took Michael Haneke’s “Hidden” out of the running, rules were promptly changed the next year; when voters failed to place critics’ darling “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” into the nine-film shortlist in 2007, branch leaders were sufficiently embarrassed to devise the executive-committee safety net that stands today.

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Watch: Kanye West and Jay Z trigger seizures with new video 'N***** in Paris'

Watch: Kanye West and Jay Z trigger seizures with new video 'N***** in Paris'

Mostly live clip features Will Ferrell, Notre Dame and panthers

Kanye West and Jay Z's latest video, for the new "Watch the Throne" single "N***** in Paris" comes with a seizure warning in front of it. And they're not kidding. 

Electrifying as it is, the clip is a non-stop torrent of flashing lights and kaleidoscopic effects, as the duo perform the hit song on stage in front of tens of thousands of rabid fans (most of whom look like runway models, apparently).

Directed by West himself, the video is comprised of live footage shot at the duo's multi-night stand at L.A.'s Staples Center this summer. If you missed the colossal rappers on tour together, this may be your only chance to see an approximation of their live abilities. 

There are also some black panthers, gothic architecture (Notre Dame may be the only representation of the French capital) and even a Will Ferrell cameo (in the form of a "Blades of Glory" clip), but mostly it's like watching "Tron: Legacy" in fast-forward. It puts Kanye's hyperactive, "Akira"-meets-Daft Punk video for "Stronger" to shame. West's video for "All of the Lights" also had a similar warning about seizures. Seems like kind of a weird trademark for a performer (even in the post-MTV age), but it works well with the thumping, relentlessly catchy "Paris."

Twitter-happy Kanye's previous album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" is up for just about every Grammy there is. 

Dat sh*t indeed cray: 

Jay-Z & Kanye West - Niggas In Paris from Dj Wiplash on Vimeo.

What do you think of the video? Grade it at the top of the story.

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<p>James Armstrong in &quot;The Barber of Birmingham:&nbsp;Foot Soldier of the Civil&nbsp;Rights Movement&quot;</p>

James Armstrong in "The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement"

Credit: ShortsHD/Magnolia Pictures

Oscar Guide 2011: Best Documentary Short

'Barber of Birmingham,' 'God is the Bigger Elvis,' 'Incident in New Baghdad,' 'Saving Face' and 'Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom' square off

(The Oscar Guide will be your chaperone through the Academy's 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)

For the second year in a row the documentary short nominees will be included in Shorts International/Magnolia Pictures' theatrical program of Oscar-nominated shorts. The films release as a package in 200 theaters nationwide on tomorrow, February 10.

The docs this year were an interesting and diverse assortment. At least two of them are top-notch works of cinema. Another is a gripping if somewhat clinical dissection of an unfortunate wartime event, while one will likely land well for its old Hollywood connections. The least-compelling of the lot is a new spin on familiar Civil Rights movement territory. Meanwhile, there are three former nominees in the line-up, two of them having been chalked up for feature work in the past.

The nominees are…

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<p>Max von&nbsp;Sydow at Monday's Nominees Luncheon</p>

Max von Sydow at Monday's Nominees Luncheon

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Round-up: Enough about Max von Sydow's burst of applause, already!

Also: UK citizens vote on the greatest BAFTA winner and who leads Best Actor Tweet mentions?

I've kind of been going nuts lately at the amount of people reporting from the Oscar Nominees Luncheon leaning on the amount of applause Max von Sydow received as if it's, in and of itself, an indication of anything. If you're a film industry professional and you have a chance to applaud for a guy like that, you're going to do it. Annette Bening got a lot of applause at last year's event. It just means respect. Plus, Christopher Plummer wasn't even there, so you can't gauge one response versus the other. This week, Dave Karger uses the burst of applause as a reason to move von Sydow up to #2 in his Best Supporting Actor rankings, but that's really where he should have been since day one. I'll say it again: von Sydow's mere presence in the category makes things interesting. [Entertainment Weekly]

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<p>James Wolk and Adam Pally on &quot;Happy Endings.&quot;</p>

James Wolk and Adam Pally on "Happy Endings."

Credit: ABC

The Morning Round-Up: 'The Middle,' 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern Family' & 'Happy Endings'

Reviews of all four ABC Wednesday comedies

It's morning round-up time, with quick reviews of all four of ABC's Wednesday night comedies, going in chronological order — "The Middle," then "Suburgatory," "Modern Family" and "Happy Endings" — coming up just as soon as as I explain the reverse Andre the Giant to you...

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<p>Dwayne Johnson, Luis Guzman, Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgens, and Josh Hutcherson all struggle to give some sense of urgency to the tepid 'Journey 2:&nbsp;The Mysterious Island'</p>

Dwayne Johnson, Luis Guzman, Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgens, and Josh Hutcherson all struggle to give some sense of urgency to the tepid 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island'

Credit: Warner Bros/New Line

Review: Dwayne Johnson and Michael Caine struggle with flimsy 'Journey 2'

Anemic family adventure can't find anything interesting for cast to do

Even by the standards of family adventure movies, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" feels completely slapdash and indifferent, a trailer for a franchise that just happens to run feature-length.  It is scripted as if someone greenlit a first-draft treatment without bothering to flesh it out or hone any of the ideas, and the idea that we're supposed to care about seeing these characters return in future adventures would be insulting if it weren't so obvious that even the people onscreen aren't invested in that actually happening.

The general idea of building a franchise of movies out of the public domain works of Jules Verne is not automatically a bad one.  Theoretically, I can see that working.  In practice, though, this does not appear to be the right way to do it.  The first film, "Journey To The Center Of The Earth," played more like a proof-of-concept reel for 3D event movies than as a real film.  It leaned on whatever franchise weight Brendan Fraser was able to muster, with Josh Hutcherson playing his son in the film.  This sequel does not bring back the original director (Eric Brevig), the original screenwriters (Michael D. Weiss, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin), or Fraser.  Instead, they've refitted the movies so Hutcherson is now living with his mother ("Sex and the City" star Kristin Davis) and her new husband Hank (Dwayne Johnson).  There's absolutely no effort made to explain Fraser's absence or to connect this with any sort of narrative thread to the first film.  Aside from the actual on-screen title, there is no evidence that this is a sequel at all.  This is an odd move, but it sort of exemplifies the approach of the entire film.  It's all so incredibly painless and weightless and inconsequential.

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<p>ObiShawn and Toshi engage in a battle to the death as part of a Lucasfilm press event for 'Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom&nbsp;Menace 3D'</p>

ObiShawn and Toshi engage in a battle to the death as part of a Lucasfilm press event for 'Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Film Nerd 2.0 heads to Skywalker Ranch for a weekend of 'Star Wars'

Room 666 and a red lightsaber? Is someone trying to tell us something?

It started with an e-mail while I was at Sundance.

I was still gearing up for that festival, a massive drain of time and attention, getting settled in at the HitFix condo and figuring out my schedule for the days ahead, when I opened an e-mail from Fox.

I had to read it several times before I was convinced that they had sent it to the right person, and even then, I had to e-mail them back to make sure.  After all, I had spent over a decade being told in no unclear terms that I was officially Banned From The Ranch.  And yet, here was an invite for Toshi and I to fly up on a Friday night and spend a weekend participating in a press junket to celebrate the release of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" in 3D.

The first call I made was to my wife to find out how she felt about the idea.  I love doing the Film Nerd 2.0 stuff with Toshi, but he's six years old, and the last thing I want to do is make him feel like he's obligated to any of this.  I also don't want to just make unilateral decisions about travel when Toshi's involved, and so we talked about the pros and the cons of taking him.  One immediate issue that we both recognized was that Allen would end up feeling slighted no matter what we did, because he's at that age where he is acutely aware of what Toshi gets to do that he doesn't get to do.  It matters to him, and contending with that fierce sibling rivalry means sometimes making choices that head the issue off completely.

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<p>Jim Carrey will most likely never play Count Olaf again, but there's still hope that a new book series could rekindle interest in film versions of the popular books by Lemony Snicket.</p>

Jim Carrey will most likely never play Count Olaf again, but there's still hope that a new book series could rekindle interest in film versions of the popular books by Lemony Snicket.

Credit: Paramount/Nickelodeon

Lemony Snicket orders million copies in first printing of launch of new series

Daniel Handler is bringing his famous pen name back to life

Harry Potter may be well and truly over, and I get the feeling that Jo Rowling is not kidding when she says she told the story and she's done and that's that.  But Daniel Handler left plenty of room for revisiting the strange and somber world of his Lemony Snicket novels, and now they've made the official announcements that confirm what Handler's been hinting at for a while.

On October 23, Little, Brown Books will release "Who Could That Be At This Hour?", which will kick off a new series called "All The Wrong Questions."  And while the previous series of novels was concerned with the fate of the Beaudelaire Orphans and their ongoing rivalry with Count Olaf, a degenerate weirdo who was chasing their inheritance, it seems that they will play no significant role in this new series.  Over the course of "A Series Of Unfortunate Events," all of which were narrated by Lemony Snicket, there were clues dropped about a much larger storyline, clues which were left up in the air at the end of the series.  It looks like that material is exactly what they'll be tackling in this new series, and for fans of the books, this is very good news indeed.

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'The Artist' and 'The Help' wage war for Oscar on LA's electronic battlefield

'The Artist' and 'The Help' wage war for Oscar on LA's electronic battlefield

Updated: 'Moneyball' and 'Hugo' are still out there too

The history of Oscar campaigning is almost akin to man's evolution from the apes.  What primarily started out as For Your Consideration ads in the local trades (Variety, The Hollywood Reporter) morphed into local cable TV buys (usually talent spouting off talking points about their movie) to traditional outdoor (primarily strategically placed billboards and bus shelter ads) to print ads in the newspaper keeping the LA Times afloat (Academy members are old and read the paper, duh) to the current wash of online advertising and, hilariously, online websites -- that will go unnamed -- publishing Academy specific print "magazines" (don't get me started on that one).  Practically, the online ads have been the biggest game changer by significantly cutting into trades sales revenues, but the past few years have seen a new tool used to reach both Oscar and Emmy voters: the electronic billboard.

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"Top Chef"

 "Top Chef"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Top Chef' - 'Mentors'

Another chef is added to the mix and the finalists must cook for their mentors

Well, our final four is...  not the final four. As we know, the winner of Last Chance Kitchen will be joining the challenges ahead, and then we'll have a final four. After the remaining chefs get the good/bad news about another chef rejoining the show, Ed has a pack of cigarettes saying it's Bev. Sarah is willing to put money on Grayson and will raise him a banana. I'm with Ed. Although I don't want the cigarettes. 

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<p>John Williams in rehearsal with Boston Pops Orchestra. </p>

John Williams in rehearsal with Boston Pops Orchestra.

Credit: AP Photo/Robert E. Klein

From 'Jaws' to 'Star Wars,' 'Raiders' to 'Tintin': John Williams celebrates his 80th birthday

A look (in video) at some of his most iconic work

Whatever your take on Lucasfilm’s output over the last 13-years may be, there are very few of us who can listen to more than just a few notes of the “Star Wars” score without feeling a rushing sense of possibility, excitement and remembered pleasure, or if it is the "Imperial March" a delicious impression of impending evil.

John Williams is responsible for some of the most beloved and iconic scores of our time. He’s been nominated for 47 Oscars (including two this year, for “The Adventures of Tintin” and “War Horse”), making him the second-most nominated person after Walt Disney (and the most-nominated composer, passing Alfred Newman this year). He won four original score Oscars, for the haunting and evocative “Schindler’s List” (1993), the bitter-sweet optimism of “E.T.:The Extra-Terrestrial” (1983), the indelible and enduring “Star Wars” (1977), and what has become the universal sound symbol for “danger in the water,” “Jaws” (1975). He also won Best Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score for “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1971, kicking off his love affair with the Academy.

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