I am a weepy old man.
I've always had one of those filters where I am wide open to movies, and if one of them finds my spot, and I get emotionally played for two hours, I'm not going to walk out afterwards angry because I got played. That's why I bought the ticket. And ever since I had kids, I find that my antenna are even more attuned to it, and I am easier than ever to set off. I could pretend to be above it, or I could strike a much more cynical and calculated pose in my writing, but if I'm being honest with you, I'm a sap. I cop to it completely.
As a result, I did my best to run out a side door so I didn't have to make eye contact with anyone after "We Bought A Zoo" tonight at the Pacific Winnetka, just one of the thousands of theaters where 20th Century Fox held a nationwide sneak tonight. I didn't want to see anyone because I know I was a mess. It got so bad at one point that I started laughing at just how expertly director Cameron Crowe was punching my button. This movie is a big fat right down the middle mainstream family movie, and I'm guessing that word of mouth is going to be very strong.
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I am a weepy old man.
Cameron Crowe's Get Out of Jail card just hit theaters. Well, it hit your multiplex for a sneak peek on Saturday night. "We Bought A Zoo" is Crowe's first movie since the disastrous "Elizabethtown" in 2005. That romance Crowe's second critical failure after "Vanilla Sky," but the former thriller still had enough Tom Cruise star power to turn a profit. Not only did "Elizabethtown" cool Crowe's previously lauded career, but it was one of the reasons Cruise and his then producing partner, Paula Wagner, found themselves out of a production deal at Paramount. Now, six years later, Crowe returns with "Zoo," a very commercial dramedy with some of the filmmaker's trademark touches thrown in for good measure.
Steven Spielberg hasn't been a major player in the Oscar game since "Munich" was nominated for best picture and he received a best director nod in 2006. In the five year since, Spielberg re-teamed with his old buddy George Lucas on another "Indiana Jones" adventure (one best forgotten) and spent a good deal of effort giving DreamWorks Studios new life at the Walt Disney Company after an unsuccessful alliance with Paramount. Spielberg's first directorial effort for the new DreamWorks is "War Horse" and ever since the rights to Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel were acquired the project had the Oscar bait stamp all over it. The film has been finished since late summer when selected long lead press screened it. Over the past few weeks more media found themselves partaking the approximately 2 hour and 20 min epic as well as some random film screening groups that Spielberg personally attended. On Thanksgiving the floodgates opened and guild, Academy and media members all began to bask in the legendary filmmaker's endeavor. And, surprise, awards season took a turn.
HitFix has a full, talented roster of film writers (and that's not even counting when Drew gets his adorable son to adorably interview Kermit and Miss Piggy) and my schedule doesn't usually give me much time to either see or write about movies. But for some films, I make an exception, and "The Muppets" is one of those. Drew already wrote his own review, and I have a lot of thoughts on the film - meant, like most of my TV reviews, to be read after you've seen it, so don't click through if you don't want to know about the cameos and various jokes - coming up just as soon as I travel by map...
As the new James Bond 007 film, "Skyfall," starts to come into focus, we're getting some idea about what to expect just based on the casting in the film. And by far, one of the most exciting details to emerge for old-school Bond fans is the idea that we're finally going to see the return of Q branch in this new film in the form of Ben Whishaw.
I really dug Whishaw in "Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer," and he's been interesting in things like the TV series "Nathan Barley" and the film "Stoned," where he played Keith Richards. I'm curious to see what role or roles he has in "Cloud Atlas" next year, which sounds ambitious and bizarre, but in the meantime, just knowing that he's playing Q means we're going to see the return of what used to be one of the highlights of the entire series.
I love that they shook up the formula when Daniel Craig was hired to play the character, and I think it's important that the series took a break from having every single film with an identical structure. They'd gotten to a point where it was sort of deadly dull to sit through the films, no matter who was playing the part of Bond, and I felt bad as a fan of the character to start actually dreading the new movies.
Nick Nolte seems to be engaging in a small round of media events and interviews in the hopes of generating renewed Academy interest in his role in Gavin O'Connor’s MMA drama “Warrior.” The film generated a predominantly positive critical response (it stands at 83% at Rotten Tomatoes) but was a box office disappointment (or disaster, depending on your perspective) with a $25 million production budget and $22.2 worldwide gross. “Warrior”’s financial failings have in all likelihood destroyed any hopes the film had of making a real showing at the Oscars. But if there is one person who may be able to rise above the limitations imposed by the stigma of (perceived) failure, it is Nolte.
Several critics found “Warrior” to be a film with a limited story that was supported by strong performances (Kris is notably included in this camp). And Nolte’s portrayal of Paddy Conlon has been singled out as particularly strong. His turn as an abusive, recovering alcoholic struggling to reconcile with his two sons, Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton), is quintessential Nolte. He is mercurial, vulnerable to the point of discomfort and grounded. O’Connor wrote the role specifically for the actor, and Nolte delivered the natural and raw performance that we imagine the director both hoped for and envisioned.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas on the Billboard 200 as Michael Buble’s “Christmas” is expected to surge to sales of up to 275,000 copies, which would boost the title up a spot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
That means “Christmas,” in its fifth week on the chart, could top a raft of new titles from superstars, including Nickelback’s “Here and Now,” pegged to come in at No. 2 and possible Buble spoiler, Rihanna’s “Talk That Talk” and Daughtry’s “Break the Spell.”
Welcome to Oscar Talk.
In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.
A late-breaking edition of the podcast today as we try to muster the energy to shake off the food coma of Thanksgiving. And there is tons to talk about today in a somewhat longer podcast than usual. Let's see what's on the docket today...
“People keep telling me what a good idea it was to make this movie, but the truth is that it was a bad idea, a very bad idea,” Michel Hazanavicius says on the phone from Los Angeles, a chipper lilt to his warm French accent. “I don’t even know if ‘idea’ is the word – it was more of a desire, something I needed to discover. There’s a difference. If it had been just an idea, it’d have been too far out of the market to pursue.”
The “bad idea” he’s is speaking of, of course, is “The Artist,” the director’s playful ode to classic Hollywood moviemaking that has beguiled critics and festival audiences on assorted shores, turned the head of Harvey Weinstein, scooped an award at Cannes and now finds itself among the frontrunners for this year’s Academy Awards. All this despite the minor obstacles of being French-made and in black and white. Oh, and silent. If Hazanavicius sounds like he can’t quite believe his luck, a lot of industry pundits are with him.
As I floated around the web recently, I found myself struck by a pair of (on the surface) unrelated articles on The Guardian's culture site. One dealt with John Cleese taking steps to transform his dream of staging an "A Fish Called Wanda" musical into a manifest reality and the other with the possibility of Aaron Sorkin penning a Steve Jobs biopic. Alright, they are unrelated. And yet I could not help but remember how much I loved "A Fish Called Wanda" and think to myself, 'Hmmm, Sorkin, Jobs, biopic: Oscar bait.'
It occurs to me that comedies are often given a perfunctory pat on the head in the form of a nomination, or altogether ignored by the Academy. To be fair, "Wanda" was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director and Kevin Klein won for Best Supporting actor -- but the film itself was not given a Best Picture nod (though "Working Girl" was). The revolutionary, enduring and entertaining "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" also failed to make the cut. The reality is that these films are unlikely to secure a Best Picture win against something like "Rain Man." Oscar overwhelmingly favors drama. Which brings me to a query: Has the time come for the Academy to take a page from the HFPA's book and introduce a new category?
The screening procedure on Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" has been an odd, not exactly particular one. I say not particular because it's not like they've been hiding the film. It's been completed since September and various long leads have gotten a look. Rival publicists have even seen the film and that's a bit of a rarity this early. And then there's the "heartland" strategy of doing pop-up screenings around the country for the public, not unlike what Paramount did with "Young Adult."
So a lot of what we've heard has been Joe the Plumber rifling off a LiveJournal entry here or a Tweet there. Others have already written about the film (one outlet, as always, making sure to be extra clear it got a look a few weeks back, as if that is relevant). Readers who caught public screenings have even posted little mini-reviews in the comments section here at In Contention. So an embargo might be tough to hold up. I was given the green light to write, but the goal is to open the movie, so funneling as much coverage to the release date as possible obviously makes sense.